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David Yassky,

★ INSIDE ★ David Paterson speaks Up and Coming: On/Off the Record Western New about his changing role as lieutenant governor.

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York spotlights five elected officials to watch.

and the special role he sees for Assembly Republicans in Albany.

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Rumored Reynolds Retirement Could Swing State Senate Maziarz seat could be Dem pick-up if he makes rumored House run BY JOHN R.D. CELOCK series of possible moves on the Western New York political chessboard could move one State Senate race from safe Republican to political toss-up just as Democrats make a play for control of the Senate. Multiple sources in Western New York politics have confirmed that there is a strong possibility that Cong. Tom Reynolds (R–Erie) will not run for a sixth term next year, opening up a race for the seat by State Sen. George Maziarz (R–Niagara), thus placing Maziarz’ seat up for grabs. Rumors of a potential Reynolds departure and a Maziarz play for a congressional seat have been flying around political circles in Buffalo and Niagara Falls for months, though Reynolds spokesman L.D. Platt denies the

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will launch full-time in January 2008, publishing monthly.

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NOVEMBER 2007

Making

His

CASE How David Soares believes he and the Albany DA’s office are showing New York the way on Rockefeller reform and public integrity BY EDWARD-ISAAC DOVERE avid Soares shakes his head. “The oldest working prostitute in Albany,” he says, pointing out the woman in caked-on makeup and a pink coat on the bench across the street. Soares is sitting behind the wheel of his black Dodge Charger—his Batmobile, as he sometimes calls it—complete with toy motorcycle and Teddy Grahams wrapper (as well as a few stray cookies)

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INSIDE:

James Tedisco goes Back & Forth about suing Eliot Spitzer

Page 6

Rush to the Finish Line in Racing Debate

KT McFarland’s 3 Column Debuts

ANDREW SCHWARTZ

below, considers his past and future Back in the District (Page 4), local candidates compete for Bloomberg bucks (Page 9) and Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes discusses his new life as a novelist (Page 31).

Assembly Member Mark Weprin Case in Point: Big Decisions by 15 Returns to His Old Block 18 New York Courts This Month 20

Special Preview Issue of Vol. 2, No. 6

www.cityhallnews.com

November 2007

The

Stringer’s ’09 Bind Out of cycle BP faces

Guru A

term limits crunch BY DAVID FREEDLANDER

ichael Bloomberg is sitting in his bullpen next to Beverly Hills Mayor Jimmy Delshad (D) and bragging. New York has the best water, he tells Delshad. The most languages are being spoken on its streets. The largest concentrations of a whole range of ethnic and nationality groups call his city home. Then the mayors dispensed with the

nxious citizens line up at a microphone stand placed in the aisle on a Tuesday night inside a tiny theater on the Lower East Side, gathered for a town hall meeting. From the stage, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer (D) says to a smattering of applause, “I have to get some of these city agencies off of their you-know-what and onto the Lower East Side!” The 30 or so mostly grayhairs in the crowd scan through Blackberries or take openmouthed naps. From the microphone comes a long litany of complaints about city life—subways that are too slow, squabbles on the community board, rowdy youth

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Mayors around the country enroll in Bloomberg’s City Hall academy BY EDWARD-ISAAC DOVERE

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INDEX:

Potential Successors to The November Poll: Which Council Dennis Gallagher Circle 2 Member Would Write the Best Novel? 22


NOVEMBER 2007

CITY HALL

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ANDREW SCHWARTZ PHOTOS

2

City Council Member Dennis Gallagher has been going about business as usual in the Council, though candidates are preparing for his possible departure.

As Gallagher Goes—Some Fear—So Goes the Queens GOP Candidates swirling for 2009, but before that, a possible special election BY ANDREW J. HAWKINS A BRIEF MOMENT, WHEN Dennis Gallagher (R–Queens) stood up to say a few words about landmarking in Sunnyside Gardens during a full Council meeting Oct. 29, he was just another New York politician. But an indictment on 10 counts of rape, criminal sexual conduct and assault have cast a shadow over Gallagher’s career—so much of one that potential

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replacements are already lining up in case he is forced to resign his seat and a special election is called. Gallagher, once a rising star in the Queens GOP, has pled not guilty to the charge that he raped a woman in his campaign office July 6. Nevertheless, immediately following his indictment, he stepped down from his position as minority whip and removed himself from all his committee assignments. Then in October, his longtime chief of staff,

The Maltese Factor or years, Dennis Gallagher (R) was seen as the presumed successor to the 74-year-old State Sen. Serphin Maltese (R), who narrowly won reelection last year against the unknown Alberto Baldeo. Next year, Baldeo is set to run again, and City Council Member Joseph Addabbo is expected to run as well. Without the power of incumbency or a well-known figure like Gallagher in the race, trends heavily favor Democrats to win the Senate seat. And for a GOP that holds a three-seat majority in the State Senate, that seat is crucial. —AH

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Dennis Gallagher was expected to succeed State Sen. Serphin Maltese.

Margaret Keta Tapalaga, resigned and, though she cited family and personal concerns, some observers believed the real cause was the legal troubles—and, notably: Tapalaga’s husband, Gabriel, is rumored to be considering a run for Gallagher’s seat. All the while, Gallagher’s lawyers have been working to get the case against him tossed, saying prosecutors improperly swayed the grand jury in seeking the indictment. A hearing for the motion to dismiss the case is scheduled for Nov. 23. Until there is a ruling on that motion, a trial date cannot be set. But if Gallagher were to be convicted, he would have to resign his Council seat. The mayor would have to set a special election date within three days, to be held between 45 and 60 days later. Potential candidates would be selected through an independent nominating process and would be required to obtain at least 2,700 signatures to appear on the ballot. Even though the Queens GOP has a full plate with upcoming Assembly, State Senate and Congressional races for which to field candidates, keeping Gallagher’s Council seat within the party remains a high priority. “If it’s a special, we’ll put as much resources as we can into it and help that person,” said Phil Ragusa, chair of the Queens Republican Party. “We’re not giving this one away.”

One name being floated is Anthony Como, Republican commissioner of the Queens Board of Elections and a former assistant district attorney. Como lost the 2005 Assembly special election to Andrew Hevesi (D). He said he plans to run in 2009, when Gallagher would be term-limited out, if not before. “Whether there’s a special election or not,” Como said, “I have decided that I am going to run.” Voter registration in Gallagher’s Council district, which covers parts of Middle Village, Ridgewood and Glendale, runs 2-1 in favor of Democrats. Como said he would appeal to residents’ middle-class values rather than their party affiliations. “I don’t think the 30th Council District votes one way or the other,” Como said. “I think they vote for the best person.” Another potential candidate is Thomas Ognibene, the 2005 Conservative mayoral candidate and Gallagher’s predecessor on the Council. Ognibene declined to entertain the notion of running in a special election if Gallagher were to step down, preferring to offer words of support for his beleaguered colleague. “It’s very disconcerting for someone facing prosecution to think that people are lining up, barking at his heels,” Ognibene said. As to whether Gallagher would step down, Ognibene said, “I don’t think that’s going to happen.” Ognibene did say he would consider running for his old seat when it opens in 2009. But regardless of when Gallagher leaves, Ognibene said the Queens GOP will have little to do with the race. “We always had our own organization—Sen. [Serphin] Maltese and myself,” Ognibene said. “We basically ran our own campaigns. If that seat is going to be held, I don’t know if it’ll have anything to do with the GOP or their organization.” Democrats seem to see an opportunity, with Queens Democrats coalescing behind a person whose last name is familiar to many of the borough’s voters: Elizabeth Crowley. Crowley, 28, a decorator, substitute teacher and workforce educator, lost to Gallagher in 2001 by 5,000 votes. Crowley, whose parents both served on the City Council and whose cousin, Rep. Joseph Crowley (D), is the Queens County Democratic chair, is trumpeting her ties to the community and, much like Como, what she sees as her bipartisan appeal. “I can win the support of Republicans and Democrats,” she said. “I don’t have hostilities with anyone in the community.” She is actively fundraising for a 2009 campaign, but says she will not wait if the opportunity presents itself. “I am prepared, more so than anybody else,” Crowley said. “I am prepared to step in if there is cause for a special election.” ahawkins@cityhallnews.com

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NOVEMBER 2007

BACK IN THE DISTRICT

Minding the Store Bitterness of 2006 behind him, Yassky reconnects as he gears up for 2009 MEMBER DAVID YASSKY (D–Brooklyn) stands at the counter of Community Bookstore in Park Slope, waiting patiently to buy the latest issue of The New York Review of Books. “How are you?” the checkout girl asks. “I had a great day,” says Yassky, all smiles. “Yesterday was Tuesday, and I was not up for re-election.” He hands her a $5 bill. “So I relaxed.” First elected to the City Council in 2001, Yassky sailed through easy 2003 and 2005 re-elections, lost a divisive and racially charged Congressional race in 2006, took a year off from campaigning in 2007, and has filed papers with the City Campaign Finance Board to run for comptroller in 2009. “I think the sheer game of politics is fun,” he says earlier in the evening, as he navigates his sister’s green Toyota though traffic to the bookshop (Yassky’s car is being repaired). The Camry’s right turnsignal has been on for a full five minutes. Yassky reconsiders his statement. There is more to it than the game. “There’s a lot at stake, so the game part is not as fun when I feel like, ‘Damn it! Fourth Avenue, we rezoned it, but it’s all luxury.’ Our opportunity for preserving some middle income here is really lost and that’s bitterly frustrating.” The traffic begins to lift. He rounds the corner, only to run into another long line of idling cars. “This is unbelievable,” he says, lightly smacking the steering wheel. “There’s nowhere to go.” Back on topic, Yassky says he is a firm believer in the restorative powers of government. “I’ve made peace with the fact that we can make good progress,” Yassky says. “We can do real things, but it’s hard and it’s much slower than you’d wish it was.” He is intimately familiar with the issues that are important to each community in his district, which covers Greenpoint, Williamsburg (including “both Hasidic Williamsburg and hipster Williamsburg,” Yassky says), Boerum Hill, Park Slope and Brooklyn Heights. “To me they’re very distinctly different neighborhoods in their feel,” he says. “On the other hand, they’re not enormously different in their values.” But his relationship to the district as a whole is far more complex than he lets on, as evidenced by last year’s race to succeed the retiring Rep. Major Owens (D–Brooklyn).

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Yassky was the only white candidate in the eventual four-way primary. His threeblock move—still within the same Council district, but over the line for the Congressional district—earned him accusations of racial carpetbagging and opportunism. The seat was once held by Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to Congress, and many local AfricanAmerican leaders ascribed symbolic importance to its continuing to have a minority representative in Washington. In the end, Yvette Clarke eked out a narrow victory, getting 28 percent to Yassky’s 25 percent. But Yassky says he has no hard feelings about the 2006 race. “I think that campaign provoked a lot more serious and honest conversations about the role of race in the city than virtually any other campaign,” he says. “So that was neat to see and to be a part of.” For Yassky, the campaign’s impact on his family was much harder than losing. He and his wife, Diana ANDREW SCHWARTZ

BY ANDREW J. HAWKINS

DISTRICT

David Yassky talks about small business development with Community Bookstore owner Catherine Bohne and Eric McClure.

Fortuna, the president of the Citizens Budget Commission, have two daughters, ages 9 and 13. Even tonight, in between meetings with small business owners in Park Slope and telephone negotiations with Assembly Housing Committee Chair Vito Lopez (D–Brooklyn) and others about rezoning in Williamsburg, he still has to pick up one of his daughters from a friend’s house in Brooklyn Heights. “I have much less time with my daughters and my wife than I did before I had this job,” he says. “No question that’s far and away the biggest downside.” After finally bursting through the traffic, Yassky arrives at Park Slope’s Community Bookstore. There, he sits in the back of the store with owner Catherine Bohne and Eric McClure, a trustee of the Park Slope Civic Council. Yassky listens intently as Bohne argues why the City Council should push New Yorkers to shop locally.

“Local people care,” Bohne says. “They care about the neighborhood, they take care of it.” She describes the difficulty of staying afloat as a small business owner. In the last few years, she says, she has ruined her credit making ends meet. Yassky glances across the room to a mother reading her curly haired daughter a children’s book. “I just read that book, The Golden Compass,” Yassky says, his eyes widening. “Holy moly, that was great!” The conversation drifts between popular children’s books to strategies for boosting locally owned businesses. “You guys know better than me,” Yassky says. “I think people know what stores are around. It’s not where to find them. It’s how community friendly they are. That’s what’s of value.” Later, with his The New York Review of Books tucked neatly under his arm, Yassky walks up Seventh Avenue pondering the importance of small businesses in a neighborhood where rising rents and high-end boutiques are changing the

landscape. He stands on the corner of Seventh Avenue and Carroll Street, extolling the virtues of the independently owned hardware stores, the shoe stores and the Second Street Café, where the councilman once ran into his old boss, former Mayor Ed Koch (D). “This is why I love this neighborhood,” he says. “There’s something real and genuine here that’s worth preserving.” Though Yassky is preparing for a citywide run, for now he is content to walk the streets of his district, stopping to chat about budget issues with residents or discuss one’s trip to Mexico City. The bitterness of the 2006 race is behind him, he says. The future looks interesting. As he walks back to his car, he passes a green trashcan. Something about it catches the eye of the man who is chair of the Council Sanitation Committee. “Keep New York City Clean,” it reads in white lettering, under which is written, “Sponsored by Councilmember Bill de Blasio.” “That’s odd,” Yassky smiles. “I thought I represented this district.” ahawkins@cityhallnews.com

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NOVEMBER 2007

Extracurricular Activities Columbia professor David Eisenbach practices what he preaches as Mike Gravel’s communications director BY ELIE MYSTAL AVID EISENBACH DID NOT SAY A

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word as his candidate, Mike Gravel, fielded a question from a 9/11 conspiracy theorist. He did not squirm in his seat when Gravel was asked to support a radical de-criminalization of Schedule 1 narcotics. As Gravel answered questions in an open forum at the Community Church of New York on Oct. 23, Eisenbach made no move to save his candidate from difficult and often bizarre questions. “He does this all the time,” said Eisenbach later, discussing the format. “He is very good on his feet.” Eisenbach is Gravel’s communications director. But he does this work as a volunteer: his paychecks come from being a professor of history at Columbia University and teaching Shakespeare at the Manhattan School of Music. He also blogs for the Huffington Post, and has written a book about the struggle for homosexual rights in the 20th century. After watching Gravel in the South Carolina debate on April 26, Eisenbach invited the former Alaska senator and Democratic presidential candidate to speak at the “Friendly Fire: Free Speech Series” he hosts at Columbia. While they were coordinating that speech, Gravel asked Eisenbach to organize a press event at Columbia, Gravel’s alma mater, that was televised on the Today show June 31. Eisenbach seized the opportunity. “When you don’t allow realities to hem you in,” he said, “you can wind up really succeeding quite wonderfully in unexpected ways.” Eisenbach is deeply concerned about the direction of American foreign policy, fearing that the administration of Pres. George W. Bush (R) is leading America toward what he believes will be World War III. He felt that no other candidate matched Gravel for passionate anti-war rhetoric. “It’s all about the war,” Eisenbach said. “Not just the current war in Iraq, but also the pending war in Iran.” Initially, Eisenbach produced internet materials for Gravel. But he soon took a central role in Gravel’s campaign, and now prepares Gravel for debates. Eisenbach defines his job as bringing attention to stories and issues that Gravel might have missed, and talking Gravel through those issues. But he quickly points out that Gravel makes up his own mind on what to say and how to say it. “Mike Gravel is Mike Gravel. He is not going to be handled. He is not going to be told to hide his anger,” said Eisenbach. In addition to volunteering his time to the campaign, he has made his sparse 80-

ANDREW SCHWARTZ

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David Eisenbach’s day is teaching about politics and media, but his passion is working as a presidential campaign communications director. square-foot office at Columbia into Mike Gravel’s New York headquarters. Though he admits that the history department has not been supportive of his extracurricular activity, he shrugged off those concerns. “Life is too short to be worried about tenure,” he said. Still, Eisenbach insists that there is academic value from his campaign exposure. He is currently working on a book about how to run a presidential campaign for under half a million dollars, and intends to use his work with Gravel as a case study. He said that he does not tell his students to vote for Gravel, but he is upfront with them when his new responsibilities require cancellation or postponement of classes. Planning for a meeting with Gravel and the United Nations Ambassador from Iran, Eisenbach knew he was going to have to miss class. “I’ll tell my students,” Eisenbach said “we’ve got a war to stop.” emystal@manhattanmedia.com

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CITY HALL

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NOVEM B ER 2007

Diversity of Opinions on Future and Focus of Black, Latino and Asian Caucus

ALSO RUNNING

★The Other Presidential Candidates from New York ★

Participants argue that the fates of the caucus and the city hinge on affordability BY ADAM PINCUS ADVOCATES

participating in the second annual conference of the City Council’s Black, Latino and Asian Caucus challenged the legislators to unify behind a more aggressive housing agenda over the coming year. But despite calls for solidarity among the group’s 25 members, who form nearly a majority in the 51-seat Council, a split remains on a major piece of anti-harassment housing legislation recently introduced by Speaker Christine Quinn (D–Manhattan). Bertha Lewis, the executive director of the nonprofit advocacy group New York ACORN, told the group that it should craft a common agenda with the other Black and Latino caucuses in Albany and Washington, referring to them as the “cauci.” “Can you imagine what would happen if the cauci got together to do something?” she said. “You have the numbers right now to shut City Hall down.” She suggested developing a land trust for housing, change the area median income figure used to determine what is considered affordable, and asked for more money for housing advocates. This year’s meeting, held in partnership with housing and community advocates on Nov. 2 and 3 at Pace University’s downtown campus, focused on suggestions to develop and maintain affordable housing in the city. Some of the preliminary recommendations from the conference included reworking the area median income, which is used to calculate what is considered affordable in New York City. The number currently used is as high as $72,000 per household—far more than most city families make, according to Council Member Leroy Comrie (D–Queens). Other ideas included reducing the income requirements for Senior Citizens Rent Increase Exemption, providing legal aid for seniors in Housing Court and increasing the number of bilingual Housing, Preservation and Development inspectors and staff. Last year’s conference focused on poverty and led to the funding of the Black Male Initiative, capital money to minority theaters and a food pantry initiative, Council

ADAM PINCUS

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Rep. Charles Rangel was among the speakers at the second annual BLA Caucus. members said. Caucus co-chair Robert Jackson (D–Manhattan) said the annual meetings of the Black, Puerto Rican, Latino and Asian Legislative Caucus in Albany and the Congressional Black Caucus in Washington inspired the Council group to hold the first conference last year. Rep. Charles Rangel (D–Manhattan) pushed for collective lobbying during an unscheduled appearance. He recalled when he was first chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus and led weekly meetings despite not having a prepared topic. “Those white reporters didn’t know we had no agenda and they were scared to death of what we were up to,” he said. But even among Council members at the conference, there were disagreements. Long-awaited legislation drafted to give tenants the right to challenge landlords in court by alleging a pattern of harassment, introduced by Quinn in October, has the backing of 30 Council members, including 15 from the caucus, according to the Council website. But a competing bill introduced by Maria Baez (D–Bronx) which is seen as more landlord-friendly was criticized in a conference workshop as being a “poison pill.” Baez’s bill has the support of five Council members, all in the BLA caucus. Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrión, Jr. (D), in a speech

at the conference, predicted the complexion of the caucus would be radically different in two decades as demographic trends shaped the city. The population of blacks was expected to remain flat, while that of Latinos would rise. The number of Asians is expected to more than double. During his speech at the conference, Carrión suggested the group consider changing its name to Asian, Black and Latino—or ABL—Caucus. The acronym BLA, he said, is “blah.” The caucus agreed to consider the name change. A larger concern for some Council members is the potential decrease in the number of Black and Latino members after districts are redrawn following the 2010 Census. “When we start redistricting we will look at that,” said Letitia James (D–Brooklyn), a co-chair of the conference. “There may be a loss in seats in the City Council and Assembly.” James said gentrification in some neighborhoods such as Fort Greene within her district could demonstrably alter the racial makeup of the Council. This concern was echoed by Miguel Martinez (D), who has seen Dominicans move to the suburbs replaced by new residents from the Upper West Side in his Upper Manhattan district. Jackson, however, said that the number of minority members in the Council would stay stable, at least in the near-term. “I don’t think it would fall because what is happening around gentrification is happening all over the city,” he said. James, who moved proceedings at the conference along with high-energy introductions and comments, said the real challenge for the caucus and the minority constituents its members represent must be seen purely in terms of affordability. And the caucus members have a legislative responsibility to address that challenge, James said, for the good of all of New York. “The question is: Who can afford to live in New York in the coming years?” she asked. “Will it be a diverse or a monolithic community?” pincus_a@yahoo.com Direct letters to the editor to editor@cityhallnews.com.

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SETH MISTERKA

From: Brooklyn, New York Party: Marijuana Party Job experience: Musician; president and founder of Amerijuana.com; president of Mysterious Media. No. 1 campaign promise: Freedom, peace and prosperity for America. Finally.

Pro-Pot ’08 Candidate Planting Seeds for ’12 Run BY DAN RIVOLI For Seth Misterka, a presidential candidate on a promarijuana platform, winning a national election is simple math: he needs roughly 60 million votes to win, and there are an estimated 96 million Americans who smoke or have smoked marijuana. But even if they all voted for Misterka, he could not be sworn in as president. Misterka is 31 years old, below the minimum age of 35 for the highest office. Misterka is using the 2008 election as a vehicle to promote his message—the decriminalization of marijuana—out to the public and prepare for the 2012 presidential election, when he will be 36. Misterka is not running on an official party and is not affiliated with New York’s Marijuana Reform Party. “The marijuana party I think of is a meta-party: the 96 million people who smoke,” Misterka said. His pro-marijuana platform might sound like a leftover from 1960s left-wing radicalism, which Misterka notes as an influence, but in his research he found that his ideas are more akin to those of libertarian economist Milton Friedman and conservative author William F. Buckley, Jr. “On this issue, certainly Republicans and conservatives had a very rational point of view on this,” Misterka said. “Where are the Democrats?” Though Misterka’s platform is restricted to one issue, he sees that issue touching many others, from strengthening a local economy to farming. If marijuana were decriminalized and taxed, he said, the government would receive more revenue, the crime rate would decrease and jobs would be created through a hemp industry. “People should be free to grow it, trade it, sell it as the market sees fit,” Misterka said. “It returns power and money to communities. Now people can grow their own cash crop either as medicine or industrial uses.” His marijuana crusade was an extension of his activism in the peace movement. He began researching the history of marijuana in the United States, why the plant was made illegal and the benefits of decriminalization. In December, he plans to launch his presidential campaign website and Amerijuana.com, a hub of video, literature and resources on the pro-marijuana movement. As a musician, he dedicates a small portion of his show to tell the audience that he is running for president on a pro-marijuana platform. Misterka, a multi-instrumentalist and president of the independent record label Mysterious Media, recently released an album with Brian Chase, drummer of the alternative rock band the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. In 2008, when the presidential campaign heats up, Misterka is planning a tour that will double as a stump speech. “I think touring as a rock ‘n’ roll musician,” Misterka said, “is an amazingly effective way to spread a message and get it out in a different way.” danrivoli@gmail.com

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NOVEMBER 2007

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Netroots vs. Party Machine in SI Primary Harrison counts on the progressive blogosphere, Recchia banks on the Democratic establishment BY DAN RIVOLI DAY STEVEN HARRISON announced that he would mount a rematch against Rep. Vito Fossella (R–Staten Island/Brooklyn) next year, The Daily Gotham, a progressive blog, redesigned its logo with a picture of Harrison’s 2006 campaign sign. Throughout his 2006 campaign, Harrison tapped into the progressive blogs like the Daily Kos and Blue Spot. He lost, but in the process, gave Fossella his closest margin of victory to date— though one of the highest for a re-elected Republican last year—without financial backing from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and little financing from local Democratic politicians. Now that two-term Council Member Domenic Recchia (D–Brooklyn) has expressed interest in the seat and started fundraising, Harrison is again turning to the blogosphere. “We clearly will reach out to the major blogs, the minor blogs, and the one-man blogs,” Harrison said. When national Democrats were planning their congressional takeover, New York’s 13th District was considered a safe Republican seat. Harrison was written off as a sacrificial lamb. Even the progressive blogosphere that rallied behind him initially gave tempered support, believing he was a conservative Democrat.

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“Most people were calling me a DINO,” Harrison said, using shorthand for what he said some call a Democrat In Name Only. “I had to ask someone what that meant.” Besides endorsements, in 2006 Harrison received $27,272 from unions and elected officials. The bulk of his $139,000 war chest consisted of small donations. For 2008, Harrison continues to receive contributions through ActBlue, a federal political action committee that lets people raise funds online for Democratic candidates. Through ActBlue, Harrison raised over $3,000 from 23 donors for the 2008 elections. For his 2008 campaign, he has raised over $50,000. “We’ll raise enough to keep the DCCC interested,” Harrison said. Harrison said that his strong showing on a shoestring budget should have put the establishment behind him because he proved Fossella could be beaten. “It’s unfortunate that the DCCC won’t avoid a primary,” he said. “What I say is: ‘Go with the person who can win this election.’” Jonah Goodman, a Washington, D.C.based blogger who runs the anti-Fossella website NY-13 (ny13.blogspot.com), said a netroots candidate can beat a party-backed candidate in a primary. Goodman recalled California Rep. Jerry McNerney’s (D) 2006 primary, in which McNerney defeated a DCCC-backed candidate. Without the big donors that come with being an elected official, online fundraising

will be an invaluable resource to Harrison, Goodman said. “Small donors do matter in a race with someone like him,” he said. Goodman, who has not endorsed either Harrison or Recchia, noted the strength of local activists in Brooklyn and Staten Island. He said these people might sour on party-backed candidates. Local activism, Goodman said, “is what’s going to get someone to the polls, not getting 10 pieces of mail.” As Harrison pulls in money from progressive political websites and pours over donor lists for contributions, Recchia held his kickoff fundraiser in Brooklyn last month. The crowd was a who’s who of Staten Island and Brooklyn Democrats, like Council Member Michael McMahon (Staten Island), Brooklyn Borough Pres. Marty Markowitz and Assembly Member Vito Lopez, leader of the Brooklyn Democratic Party. Recchia formed a fundraising committee after seeing Harrison’s July 15 financial filings, which showed little activity. Worried about Harrison’s fundraising abilities, Recchia entered the race, though has not officially declared. If Recchia can raise $500,000 by Christmas, he said, he would take the next step in officially declaring his candidacy. Recchia is campaigning as the candidate who can raise enough money to compete with Fossella, charging that Harrison would have difficulty doing that. “There comes a point in time where you have to be realistic. In government today,

you have to be able to raise money,” Recchia said. Recchia lives in Brooklyn, though outside the congressional district. His relationships with local elected officials and as chair of the council’s Cultural Affairs Committee will bolster his name recognition in Staten Island, which is two-thirds of the congressional district. “When you see my filing coming up, you’ll see people from Staten Island who support Domenic Recchia financially,” he said. “That’s what makes my campaign so fruitful.” Those in the Democratic establishment, Lopez said, are confident in Recchia’s ability to financially compete with Fossella. “They’ve pledged financial support— enormous financial support,” Lopez said. “That gives him an edge.” Like Harrison, Lopez agrees that a primary can only hurt the Democratic candidate’s chances of taking on Fossella, a 10year incumbent. “Certain individuals need to put aside their egos and agenda,” he said. Though Lopez noted that Harrison is running an insurgent campaign, both potential candidates will be underdogs in 2008. “Recchia and Harrison are running against an incumbent congressperson who is well funded and well established in the district,” he said. “They’re both running grassroots campaigns.” danrivoli@gmail.com Direct letters to the editor to editor@cityhallnews.com.

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Teachers Calculate Benefits of School Incentive Program Problems and confusion surface as pilot program in 61 schools begins BY PHILIP CLARK FRYER, JR., HAS GAINED national notoriety for using complex economic models to examine problems like the black/white testscore gap, the impact of “acting white” and affirmative action. Now, while he retains his academic post at Harvard, Fryer is trying to bring some of his theories to bear as the chief equality officer for the Department of Education (DOE). Drawing on the power of quantitative analysis, he aims to break down complex problems and arrive at solutions that can have a real-world impact. Fryer first tried his ideas at P.S. 70, where students received pizza or field trips for doing well in class. The exact results of the study were not available for release, and DOE spokeswoman Debra Wexler called the study “statistically irrelevant,” since only one school was involved. Fryer began a larger program in 61 schools this September, using cash rather pizza as an incentive. The study targets

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fourth- and seventh-grade students, and uses performance-based pay on a series of 10 Math and English exams spread out through the year. Fourth-graders receive $5 for completing the exam, with a maximum of $25 for a top grade, while seventhgraders receive between $10 and $50. “These kinds of incentives,” said Fryer at an Oct. 30 presentation at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, “are about making education tangible.” New York’s program is modeled on a program Fryer developed in Dallas entitled “Earning-by-Learning,” where students receive $2 per book read, with a cap at 20 books per child per semester. Final analyses are not available for the program, but preliminary data shows students reading an average of 23 books per semester. Though students are reading above the cap, whether students are continuing to read for the sake of reading is unclear. Cash is still the only incentive offered at one New York City school participating in the program. The coordinator in charge of the program at this school, who introduced

the idea to the seventh-grade classes, said that “students are very excited” and have set up their free personal bank accounts to deposit their earnings. The rounds of tests were supposed to begin with the new school year in September but were delayed at some schools. That has resulted in a test-scheduling pileup at several. A teacher administering the tests to seventh-graders who took their first round at the beginning of November said that in order to take the 10 tests, students would “be taking a test every three weeks.” The tests are all online, which would normally streamline the testing process, but this school lacked a centralized computer lab where classes could take the tests. When asked about the tests, a seventh-grade English language arts teacher confessed being totally unaware of the program. At this school, the incentives were simply seen as reward for taking the exam. “Students understand it’s serious now,” said the coordinator.

Dr. Roland Fryer (right), pictured here with Schools Deputy Chancellor Chris Cerf, is applying his academic theories on incentives to certain city public schools, but questions remain. But when asked whether the connection between working harder in class and receiving greater incentives were being made, the coordinator replied, “No, I don’t think it is.” pclark@coro.org Direct letters to the editor to editor@cityhallnews.com.

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CITY HALL

SCOTT WILLIAMS

www.cityhallnews.com

NOVEM B ER 2007

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(R–Brooklyn), Rep. Vito Fossella (R–Staten Island/Brooklyn), Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I) and, more recently, City Council Member Peter Vallone, Jr. (D–Queens)—who also endorsed Bloomberg for re-election in 2005, along with his father, former Council Speaker Peter Vallone. Before he was elected in 2001, Bloomberg made donations to dozens of candidates across the country. Since becoming mayor, he has contributed over $300,000 to various campaigns, in and out of New York State. But other than the millions he put to his own campaign, the only local candidate he has written checks to is Fossella, to whom he gave $2,000 in 2004. He has also raised money for a number of out-of-state politicians, from Vice President Richard Cheney (R) to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) to Jeannemarie Devolites Davis (R), a pro-gun control state senator from Virginia who was unseated in a landslide loss Nov. 6. But though he does not give himself, Bloomberg is adept at persuading others to open their wallets for local politicians. And his sky-high approval rating has local politicians jockeying for his Midas touch. Golden, for example, held a well-attended fundraiser Oct. 17 at Garguilo’s, a 100-year-old restaurant nestled among the hot dog stands and crab shacks of Coney Island. Hundreds of supporters and GOP stalwarts filled the giant banquet hall to nibble meatballs, trade business tips and pay tribute to Golden, a three-term senator who is sometimes mentioned as a potential 2009 mayoral contender. And the chance to catch a glimpse of the mayor certainly helped draw in the crowd and get the event media coverage as well. As soon as he arrived, Bloomberg took the podium and joked about what he had in common with Golden. “We’re both tall,” he deadpanned. “We’re both Irish. And we both play a great game of Mayor Michael golf.” Bloomberg’s appearThen he was off, riding a wave of laughter ance at a fundraiser can and applause as he rushed to his next event. prove a virtual goldmine Golden said he understood the value of his for candidates such as relationship with Bloomberg. The Coney State Sen. Martin Island fundraiser brought in about $350,000, Golden, Council Member Golden said. Simcha Felder and Sen. “He’s been very helpful to me in my election Joseph Lieberman. process,” Golden said. “Anytime you have the mayor of a city of eight million people at your event, it certainly brings a certain prestige to that event and gives the people attending an understanding of your relationship.” He added, “If he likes you and he believes in you, he’s going to stay with you.” The money from that fundraiser went to Golden’s State Senate re-election campaign committee. Golden was hesitant to speculate about whether Bloomberg’s support would carry over to future races. “I would never take advantage of his kindness,” he said. “I would never presume that this would amount to any other office than the one that I’m running for.” Markowitz agreed. Considered to be gearing up for a came from people who would have anyway supported him, mayoral run himself, he deflected the notion that a a chunk can be attributed to the pull of Bloomberg’s star Bloomberg fundraiser even tacitly equaled an endorsement. On the other hand, said Vallone—who is believed to be power. “It did bring in some additional funds that I probably plotting a run for Queens borough president and netted $200,000 at his Nov. 5 fundraiser at Bloomberg’s townwould not have raised,” he said. “No question about it.” In deciding whom to support, Bloomberg, a Democrat- house—the mayor’s support can amount to a political legturned-Republican-turned-Independent, does not discrimi- up over his prospective opponents. “Clearly he chooses to help people that he wants to see nate based on party affiliation. “The mayor has helped a broad spectrum of candidates continue in public service,” Vallone said. “I can count the from around the country and from both sides of the aisle,” number of Council members that he’s had fundraisers for on two fingers.” Bloomberg spokesman Stu Loeser explained. Felder, who represents the other finger, agreed. Bloomberg decides whom to support based on a person“I would not hold a fundraiser for someone unless I al admiration for leadership skills or with regard to how was convinced that person is the best candidate for that their decisions impact their constituents, Loeser added. In addition to Markowitz, Bloomberg has hosted or office,” Felder said coyly. “I think it would be disingenuattended fundraisers for City Council Member Simcha ous.” Felder (D–Brooklyn), State Sen. Martin Golden ahawkins@cityhallnews.com

The $100,000 Man Spreads the Wealth Local candidates cash in on Bloomberg bucks BY ANDREW J. HAWKINS

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ROSPECTIVE CANDIDATES LUCKY ENOUGH TO

have New York’s billionaire mayor host or attend fundraisers can expect to net at least $100,000 per event. And for these blessed few, the implication that Michael Bloomberg likes them enough to tell all his friends to shower them with dough—even though he does not write checks himself—can be priceless. Take Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz (D), who has had a consistently warm relationship with the mayor and was the most prominent Democrat to endorse Bloomberg for re-election in 2005. Bloomberg opened the doors to his Upper East Side townhouse last June for an event that drew in “several hundred thousand dollars,” according to Markowitz. Markowitz said that though the majority of the cash

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CITY HALL

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NOVE MBE R 2007

ISSUE FORUM:

BANKING

Banking Regulation Requires a Careful Balance BY STATE SEN. HUGH FARLEY

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services industry is arguably the foundation of New York’s economy, employing nearly a half-million New Yorkers at more than twice the state’s average wage. Among the state’s major industry clusters, financial services account for about 18 percent of employment, but nearly 40 percent of total wages. The New York State Banking Department regulates over 3,500 institutions with assets exceeding $1.8 trillion. Regulated entities include commercial banks, savings banks, foreign banks, credit unions, mortgage bankers, mortgage brokers, check cashers and money transmitters. The original reason for geographic concentration of the banking industry—the need to physically move heavy bullion from one bank to another—has long been irrelevant. While 21st century New York remains the world’s financial center, banking is today a highly mobile industry. We have clear evidence of that mobility. In the global context, although New York is home to 86 percent, by assets, of the foreign banks doing business in the United States, at one time that number was nearly

100 percent. And from a consumer viewpoint, New York-based banks moved or outsourced their backoffice credit card operations to lower-cost states years ago: Today, hardly any credit cards are issued out of New York State. As a result, not only has our state lost credit card-related jobs and tax revenue, New York no longer has any effective regulatory jurisdiction over the credit card industry. Given the multitude of factors that impact location decisions by banks—and New York’s competitive disadvantages such as high taxes, an aging infrastructure, an older workforce and bad weather—a respected regulatory environment plays an increasingly crucial role as one of our advantages. The centerpiece of our regulatory structure actually dates back to the Depressionera creation of the State Banking Board, a 17-member, quasi-legislative body which promulgates banking regulations. Chaired by the superintendent of banks, the remaining board membership is equally split between public members and repre-

sentatives of the banking industry. Industry representation is also allocated among different types of institutions ensuring participation by large banks, small banks, credit unions and foreign banks. Board members are appointed by the governor, subject to the consent of the State Senate. It has only been within the last decade, however, that we have begun to take full advantage of the expertise and flexibility of the Banking Board and Superintendent of Banks. In 1997, New York adopted “wild card” banking legislation, a regulatory construct under which the Banking Board is empowered to grant to state-chartered institutions the same powers granted by federal regulators to federally chartered banks. This process leverages the expertise of the Banking Board, and keeps New York’s own banks current with their competitors. It also gives state-chartered banks an assurance that our regulations will be kept up-to-date. During the 2007 legislative session, we

continued the “wild card” law, streamlined its implementation process and expanded the law to include state-chartered credit unions and foreign banks. We face increasing competition from foreign banking centers, as well as from other states. We need to ensure that New York’s banking institutions can be competitive in the national and global marketplace while providing appropriate consumer protections. The governor has named the chairs of the Senate and Assembly Banks and Insurance Committees to a 34-member Commission to Modernize the Regulation of Financial Services. Hopefully, this body—which includes representation from the banking, insurance, and securities industries, as well as legal professionals, government regulators and consumer advocates—will continue to refine a balanced regulatory environment, ensuring New York’s continued global financial services leadership.

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Hugh Farley is a Republican representing parts of Fulton, Montgomery, Saratoga and Schenectady counties. He is chair of the State Senate Banking Committee.

Banks Should Give Consumers Choices, Not Overdraft Fees BY REP. CAROLYN MALONEY

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with unexpected and hefty bank overdraft charges— unfair fees that banks have made it very difficult to avoid. Bank customers often don’t know they are overdrawing their account or that their bank will charge them an average $35 fee each time they do so. As a result, consumers often run up hundreds of dollars in overdraft fees for purchases totaling much less. Almost all bank customers could have cheaper and more reliable options to cover overdrafts, but they aren’t being given the choice. Congress can and should ensure that Americans have the information they need to protect their hard-earned money. As chair of the U.S. House Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit, I introduced the Consumer Overdraft Protection Fair Practices Act (H.R. 946) earlier this year with House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D–Mass.) that would provide bank customers with information about all of their overdraft options and let them choose which option is best for them. Last year alone, Americans paid $17.5 billion dollars in overdraft fees, according to a study by the nonpartisan Center for Responsible Lending. These fees far exceeded the actual $15.8 billion that con-

sumers overdrew. So, for every $1 that customers overdraw their account, they end up paying over $2 just to get back to even with their bank: a dollar in repayment and more than a dollar in overdraft fees. Young consumers, who have become increasingly reliant on debit cards, are especially vulnerable to overdraft fees; on average, they pay $3 in fees for every $1 they borrow. Under the overdraft lending system in wide use today, a college student who overdraws his account by $10 would likely pay a $35 overdraft fee. Even if this student repays the loan in as little as two days, he would still be paying an effective annual interest rate of more than 60,000 percent. If you compare overdraft loan programs to other ways of covering overdrafts, it’s easy to see that consumers might make a different choice than the one banks are making for them. If that same student had a line of credit with a 20-percent annual interest rate, he would have paid only 1 cent. If the student linked his checking account to his savings account, he would normally pay only a $10 transfer fee to cover the overdraft. In the past, banks would decline to honor checks or debit card payments when a customer’s checking account lacked sufficient funds. In fact, debit cards were marketed by banks as a way to avoid overdrafts because, banks said, the card would not let you overdraw your account. Many people think this is still the case, but it’s

not. Nowadays, banks don’t even tell customers when they are about to overdraw their account. Many consumers have no idea they overdrew their accounts—or even had overdraft “protection”— until they get a bank statement in the mail that details hundreds of dollars in overdraft fees. My bill would require that customers be told when they are about to overdraw at ATMs and be given the choice of whether or not they want to proceed. It would also require banks to obtain written consent from consumers before signing them up for an overdraft loan program in the first place. What’s more, it is now standard practice for banks to delay and sequence debits and deposits to maximize overdraft profits. Instead of clearing withdrawals in the order in which they are numbered or dated, banks process higher amounts first, which can lead to a cascade of unwanted overdraft charges. Some industry spokespeople have claimed that banks do this as a service to cover the biggest payments, like rent or mortgage checks. However, this explanation doesn’t make much sense in today’s overdraft systems: Typically, all debits and checks are paid even if the customer goes into the negative, so the rent check is going to be covered anyway. If

the system is set up to subtract the larger amounts from the account first, or take out withdrawals before adding deposits, the bank can charge more overdraft fees. My bill would prohibit this unfair manipulation of checks and debits. New York City is the nation’s banking center. I understand and support the right of financial institutions to make money for services that benefit their customers. However, consumers should be given information about overdraft protection programs—and the fees that come with them—so they can make the best choices about their own money and finances. The overdraft lending system in use today is based on withholding this vital information from consumers. My bill will soon come up for an important vote in the House Financial Services Committee. While the banking industry won’t let the bill pass without a fight, the American people deserve more than business as usual. The free market only works when consumers have information and choice.

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Carolyn Maloney is a Democrat representing parts of Manhattan and Queens. She is chair of the House Financial Service Committee’s Financial Institutions Subcommittee.


REPRINTED FROM

THE NEW YORK TIMES

OP-ED

THURSDAY JULY 9, 2006

Canning the Bottle Bill By John A. Catsimatidis

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EW YORKERS dodged a bullet last month when the State Senate rejected a bill, which the Assembly had earlier passed, that would have increased the number of bottles and cans that can be returned for a 5cent deposit at your local grocery store. Why am I pleased with the decision? Because the state has had a bottle bill on the books since 1982 and besides being a disaster for me as a supermarket owner, it's had little overall effect on recycling. If recycling is important ñ and I believe it is ñ we need something more than bottle bills. Let's be honest: how often do you return your bottles to the grocery store? If you are like me, you're busy and while you are more than happy to separate your trash, take your recyclable materials to the end of your driveway or to the recycling area in your building, you're unlikely to lug empty soda or beer bottles back to the supermarket. After all, the redemption rate, or the number of containers presented for a refund versus the total number of beer and soda containers sold, is only about 67 percent and may actually be 10 percentage points lower because of redeemed containers that were sold in another state. According to research conducted by the consulting group Northbridge Environmental for the Food Industry Alliance of New York State, the current bottle bill ignores 98 percent of the materials now going into our landfills. Even the proposed bottle bill expansion, which would have required deposits on sports

drinks, bottled water and iced teas, would have captured less than two-thirds of 1 percent of what is going into our landfills. Moreover, making food stores redemption centers has caused constant difficulties for grocers. It's hard enough to keep stores clean and free of vermin and insects without dealing with the mess brought by an influx of dirty cans and bottles. Hardest hit have been the smaller urban stores, which simply have nowhere to store or process returned bot-

[New Yorkers] want recycling that is clean and simple. tles and cans. New Yorkers want to recycle, but they don't want to be forced to keep and haul dirty bottles back to stores only to face long lines in the redemption area ñ as they've shown by leaving unclaimed about $91 million a year in bottle deposits, which are essentially an additional tax on consumers. They want recycling that is clean and simple. According to a statewide poll conducted by Opinion Dynamics for the Food Industry Alliance, when given a choice to support expanding the bottle deposit law of enhancing communityrecycling programs, more than 6 in 10 New Yorkers favor improving comprehensive recycling. Legislation has been introduced in Albany that will complement community recycling programs and establish a recycling solution for the state. The bill, the Recycling for Communities Act, imposes fees on the producers, wholesalers and PAID ADVERTISEMENT

retailers of certain products, including newspaper publishers, that would finance enhanced community-based recycling programs. These programs will not only remove from the solid waste stream materials that the bottle bill ignores, but they will also diminish litter and help us to better manage our garbage. The revenue that this proposal will generate is earmarked for municipal recycling programs and communitybased programs for litter prevention and control to cost-effectively collect and recycle all materials and also clean up litter from streets and public areas. Some of the money will also be used to promote market development for recyclables to ensure that collected materials are reused or remade into new products. And we don't have to stop there. Why not put recycling bins for bottles and newspapers on streets and in public areas? We have such receptacles on the Metro-North train platforms ñ why can't they be on our sidewalks, in our parks and in the New York City subway stations? Widespread curbside and community recycling was not in place 24 years ago when New York's bottle law was passed. Today, New Yorkers are more aware of separating their trash ñ in fact, it's become second nature to most of us. Instead of a bottle bill, we should be looking for a more comprehensive approach. With some more support, these community-recycling programs, along with community based litter programs and the availability of more recycling receptacles, can be more effective than redeeming a bunch of soda bottles.

John A. Catsimatidis is CEO of Gristede’s supermarkets.


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CITY HALL

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NOVE MBE R 2007

ISSUE FORUM:

BANKING

Financial Literacy: Why Is It Important? BY ASSEMBLY MEMBER DARRYL TOWNS

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S A NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY

Member, I often receive articles from around the country. One article of note from the Delaware Bankers Association discerned that the average person in the United States does not save and is a misinformed buyer. Moreover, statistics from the American Bankruptcy Institute, the Federal Reserve and the National Endowment for Financial Education have found that: The U.S. has the lowest personal savings rate of any developed nation, with as many as 50 percent of the households having less than $1,200 in savings. The personal savings rate as a percentage of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) dwindled from 7.5 percent in the 1980s to 2.4 percent in 2002. In the 1940s, the rate was over 24 percent. Consumer debt rose from $805 billion in 1990 to $1.65 trillion in 2001. Four in 10 workers do not have savings for retirement, and those with savings allude to minimum levels of savings and investments. Former Chairman Greenspan of the Federal Reserve Bank has said, “Today’s financial world is highly complex.”

According to Greenspan, 40 years ago a simple understanding of how to maintain a checking and savings account at local banks and savings institutions may have been sufficient. Now, consumers have to differentiate between a wide array of financial products, services and providers. Today’s generation has more financial obligations than generations before. “They may not have needed a comprehensive understanding of such areas of credit as the impact of compounding interest and the implications of mismanaging credit accounts.” The National Foundation for Educational Research defines financial literacy as the capacity to make wellinformed opinions and effective decisions regarding the use and management of money. Financially literate people use credit responsibly, know their financial limits and do not go beyond their limit. Moreover, they recognize the relationship between financial planning and attaining financial goals, and they develop a person-

al budget. The National Financial Institute sponsored a Financial Literacy Forum in March 2006. It was called “Assessing Adult Financial Literacy and Why It Matters.” The purpose of the forum was to promote research and advancement in the field of adult financial literacy. Panelists were encouraged to present working papers after the forum. The papers found that consumers of high-cost credit sources were knowledgeable about the specific costs of credit, but were fairly unfamiliar with the prices that were quoted due to regulatory mandates, such as the average percentage rate or total interest change. They also found that payday financing companies are quite aggressive with little variation in pricing. So, it seems that consumers know their costs and are attracted to these companies irrespective of their high cost. In addition, some data suggest that these companies have been able to easily sidestep efforts by regulators to limit repeat business of payday financing companies at little cost to consumers. Education and reform in con-

junction with suitable legislation are needed to address this dire situation. Finally, there have been a number of initiatives and attempts to raise the awareness of both adults and youth regarding the importance of financial literacy. The statistics, however, speak for themselves. Our citizenry wants to enjoy the spoils of their hard work, but they seem to be unwilling or incapable of future planning. I do not know if they still teach Aesop’s fable about the Ant and the Grasshopper, but I know it is one of my favorites. In short, the fable concerns a grasshopper or cricket that has spent the warm months singing away while the ant (or ants) worked to store food for winter. After the winter has come, the grasshopper finds itself dying of hunger and upon asking the ant for food is only admonished for its inactivity. The story is used to teach the virtues of hard work and saving, and the risks of extravagance. The fable states a moral at the end: Idleness brings want To work today is to eat tomorrow It is best to prepare for the days of necessity.

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Darryl Towns is a Democrat representing parts of Brooklyn. He is chair of the Assembly Banking Committee.

How to Improve Banking for the Good of All New Yorkers BY SUPERINTENDENT RICHARD NEIMAN 1851 WITH THE legislative mandate to ensure the safe and sound conduct of its supervised entities, the New York State Banking Department is the oldest bank regulatory agency in the nation. The Department is the primary regulator for state-licensed and state-chartered financial entities including: domestic banks; foreign agencies, branches and representative offices; savings institutions and trust companies; credit unions; and other financial institutions operating in New York including mortgage bankers and brokers, check cashers, money transmitters, and licensed lenders. The depository institutions supervised by the Banking Department have aggregate assets of more than $1.8 trillion. As regulators of both depository and non-depository financial institutions, the department is focused on maintaining an environment that allows the financial industry to prosper while consumer protection standards continue to be enhanced. While we remain flexible to adapt and meet the immediate needs of the industry, we have identified five key priorities that support our mission and long-term vision. Enhance and promote New York State Charter: To remain competitive with our federal counterparts in the context of the dual banking system and preemption, it is

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vital that we focus on servicing our current institutions while being conscious of the needs of New Yorkers. Recent efforts to ensure our competitiveness include the introduction of enhanced “Wild Card” authorizations and our relationship building efforts with other state regulators. Strengthen consumer protection and enforcement efforts: Over the past eight to 12 months, the ongoing sub-prime crisis has elevated the relevance of this priority. Appreciating the potentially devastating long-term impact this situation may have on individuals, communities, the state of New York and the economy, the department has dedicated significant resources to addressing this issue. We have partnered with other government agencies, industry representatives and consumer groups to raise awareness of the scope of the problem and work together on developing solutions that address the immediate crisis and avoid similar situations in the future. In addition to our leading role on the governor’s Halt Abusive Lending Transactions (HALT) Task Force, representatives from the department have participated in initial meetings of a multi-state initiative with AG offices to encourage mortgage servicing companies to offer modifications to consumers facing reset and payment difficulties. Expand economic development and economic inclusion: As we explored the various elements that contributed to the

sub-prime crisis, we became painfully aware of the direct impact on underbanked and low-income communities. The Banking Department has always had a commitment to economic inclusion and reaching under-banked communities, and that commitment has been further fueled by recent events. In addition to our existing Banking Development District (BDD) program, we are participating in the Governor’s Economic Security Cabinet to help working families and are continuously exploring new ways to expand traditional banking services and promote the economic benefits of inclusion. Lead regulatory modernization and reform: Governor Spitzer’s Commission to Modernize the Regulation of Financial Services is a key initiative under this priority and is a testament to the State’s commitment to maintaining New York’s standing as the financial capital of the world. To successfully lead this modernization effort, it is critical that we keep ahead of trends, remain open to new technologies impacting the financial industries and be aware of the risk factors around every legislative and regulatory change we propose. Internal resources: Our final priority is

directly related to internal resources. With ambitious priorities and a sense of great responsibility to the institutions we regulate and the consumers they serve, we understand the importance of a strong management team and a solid staff that have a shared vision of the future. The banking industry in this country has a long history and a successful track record of adapting to changing times and maintaining its vitality. The success of the dual banking system is a testament to the foresight of our predecessors. As proposals for more federal regulation are presented for legislative consideration, we must remember the value of the states in the process and not lose sight of the benefits of our current legislative and regulatory framework. As we look to the future and consider the changing landscape of the global banking industry, I believe it is important that we anticipate how new competition, new technology, and new markets will impact the legislations we introduce and the industries we regulate.

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Richard Neiman is the superintendent of the New York State Banking Department, appointed by Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D).


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NOVE MBE R 2007

CITY HALL

Thompson and UFT Teach Real Estate 101 South Bronx complex may lay foundation for more unions to provide housing BY ANDREW J. HAWKINS CITY COMPTROLLER William Thompson, Jr. (D) explained his plan to build affordable housing for the city’s cashstrapped teachers during an Oct. 23 breakfast speech to the Association for a Better New York, he received enthusiastic applause. Whether the plan will help Thompson win precious union support while he mulls a run for mayor remains unclear. But Thompson himself is unconcerned. “I don’t think one project is going to help determine whether I’m helped personally by that,” he said. “It’s just better for the entire city.” The new housing plan, which brings together the comptroller’s office, the city’s Housing Development Corporation and the Teacher’s Retirement Fund, calls for $28 million in retirement money to be invested in the construction of 234 units of affordable housing for teachers in the South Bronx. With rents soaring and affordable housing limited, the program aims to stem the outbound flow of teachers from the city. In 2005, more than 5,000 educators left New York for more affordable locales, Thompson said. But he believes programs like these can reverse that trend. “We know this will work given the demand, given the need for affordable housing in the city of New York and given the need to retain teachers,” Thompson said. The next year, the city began offering housing subsidies up to $14,600 to persuade math, science and special education teachers to work in the city’s most challenging schools. The teachers union hailed the new plan, but warned that it was just one step toward keeping the city’s 80,000 public and private school teachers in New York. “This won’t solve the housing crunch itself,” said Chris Policano, a spokesman for the United Federation of Teachers. “But it’s a major way to attract and retain

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teachers in New York.” The construction will be financed by Series D bonds bearing a 6-percent market rate of interest, purchased by Thompson on behalf of the retirement fund. While the city’s pension funds have previously invested in affordable housing projects, this is the first time a fund has financed housing for municipal workers. The new development will be completed in two years and will carry monthly rents ranging from $806 for a studio to $1,412 for a three-bedroom apartment. To be eligible, teachers cannot earn more than 110 percent of the area median income, which is $76,000 for a family of four. Educators who sign a lease will become rent-stabilized tenants. And the comptroller does not intend to stop there. “Other members of the pension board have expressed interest,” Thompson said. “I think you’ll see more of this in the future.” The United Firefighters Association is already in talks with city officials. Jim Slevin, vice president of the firefighters union, said an investment in affordable housing would be ideal for the fire department, which is also having difficulty recruiting and retaining employees. “If you look at the price of real estate and housing in New York City, it’s skyrocketed,” Slevin said. “It’s very hard for

IONS

The affordable housing project in the South Bronx for teachers is slated to be completed in 2009. would be used sponsor construction. The Police Department’s pension fund has also expressed interest in a similar plan. Rookie cops skate by on a starting salary of $25,100. As many as five other unions are mulling their own plans, said Ed Ott, executive director of the New York Central Labor Council. “The teacher thing is very significant,” Ott said. “We think it’s going to be one of several to come out over time.” According to a recent study by the

“The teacher thing is very significant,” said CLC Executive Director Ed Ott. “We think it’s going to be one of several to come out over time.” a firefighter with a family to afford to live within the five boroughs based on their current salary,” which begins at $35,000 a year, he said. Slevin said 5 percent of the firefighters $7.2 billion pension is allocated for affordable housing. The union has yet to work out what fraction of that amount

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New York University Furman Center for Housing and Urban Policy, the number of apartments affordable to households earning 80 percent of the city’s median income—about $33,000—fell by over 200,000 units between 2002 and 2005. “On the one hand, the rising prices in New York City reflect the fact that it’s a really attractive place to live,” said Ingrid Gould Ellen, the center’s co-director. “On the other hand, it’s becoming a real strain for the people we want to live here and the people that we need to live here.” The South Bronx construction project is just the latest example in a decades-long tradition of union-backed housing projects in New York. Five decades ago, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers sponsored the construction of thousands of

units for its members in Queens, dubbing the community Electchester. The Penn South cooperative in Chelsea was backed by the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. And the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America provided the moral and financial support for the Bronx’s Co-op City. The meat cutters had Concourse Village in the Bronx. The garment workers had the Seward Park Houses in Manhattan. And Big Six Towers in Queens was for the printers. “It is part of a tradition in one sense,” Ott said of the latest housing plan. “But it is much more expensive to do now and harder to do because of available land.” A wave of mortgage defaults and a forecasted credit crunch has stoked fears that the city’s construction boom could soon falter. But Richard Froelich, general counsel at the Housing Development Corporation, said the South Bronx development will be insulated from any housing slowdown. “It’s really more of an issue for home ownership,” Froelich explained of the sub-prime mortgage crisis. “These developments really shouldn’t be impacted by that as long as they’re charging affordable rents and as long as the neighborhood stays attractive.” For Ott, the move to build affordable housing for municipal workers has come not a moment too soon. The Central Labor Council has recently had to extend its voter drives to eastern Pennsylvania, where many former New Yorkers now live. “And that’s all got to do,” he said, “with affordable housing.” ahawkins@cityhallnews.com

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CITY HALL

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CITY HALL in mayor’s school.” The time Bloomberg spends with his counterparts from other cities consist of more nuts and bolts meetings than photoops and glad-handing. Site visits and meetings with other senior administration officials are generally part of the agenda for visitors as well. “It’s not pleasantries,” Loeser said. “It’s details.” Bloomberg discusses his management style with the mayors, advising on setting the right tone for their administrations, focusing on set goals and delegating. Some seek guidance replicating on Bloomberg’s signature accomplishments, like public education reform, the smoking ban, pursuing sustainable development and 311. Some come seeking guidance on labor negotiations or fomenting private sector support for the arts. Bloomberg either answers their questions himself, or has them connected with the appropriate policy people. Pointing to the merging of affordable housing with new development as one issue which commonly comes up in discussions, Loeser said the mayor’s feeling is that “if it works in Greenpoint-Williamsburg, it’s going to work in South Philadelphia or Southeast Washington, D.C.” That logic resonated with Michael Nutter, who won the Democratic ANDREW SCHWARTZ PHOTOS

In the bullpen Oct. 23, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Beverly Hills Mayor Jimmy Delshad discussed ways to apply technology to improve city life.

The

Guru CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1

small talk. Bloomberg shifted in his seat and they got down to business. Now it was Delshad’s turn to brag. Already, Beverly Hills employs technology in ways that would startle most New Yorkers. The parking meters are solar-powered, accept credit card payment and can have time added to them via text messages from any cellular phone. All the residential water meters in the city will soon be wireless, eliminating the need for meter readers and feeding a city mainframe information about leaks and outages. License plate readers inform local police of every car that enters city limits. Sprinklers in city parks will soon be controlled by satellites which will monitor temperature and rainfall. One thing Beverly Hills does not have,

though, is a 311 line. And so, as part of Delshad’s annual trip to meet with CEOs of major businesses with offices in Beverly Hills, he asked for an Oct. 23 meeting with Bloomberg to find out how to get one. “I wanted to learn how to do that and how to do it right,” Delshad said. Other cities have systems like 311— Chicago’s non-emergency service line has been running with increasing success since going online in 1999. Bloomberg, though, is the only mayor Delshad sought out, despite New York’s much larger population and the many other differences between the two cities. New York’s model is instructive, Delshad said, though he plans to tweak it slightly back home in California.

“We learned how to do it in Beverly Hills so it would be a lot more personable,” he said. “We’re a small city, so we can be a lot more personable.” With those lessons learned and a contract to join the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition, Delshad returned home. Two weeks later, he said, the 311 line is moving forward, and the coalition agreement has been signed. He is the 248th mayor to join the effort. elshad was far from the first mayor to seek out Bloomberg’s guidance, and he will not likely be the last. For mayors making trips to the city for the express purpose of meeting with Bloomberg and many of those passing through New York on other busi-

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ness, the Bloomberg bullpen has become a popular pilgrimage point. Though New York is far from perfect, and though Bloomberg has faced his fair share of criticism, people around the country covet the Bloomberg model, and will travel miles in search of wisdom from on high. Bloomberg has developed relationships with many big city mayors. He and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (D) see each other somewhat regularly. Boston’s Thomas Menino (D) co-chairs the gun coalition. Houston’s Bill White (D), a fellow former CEO first elected in 2003 and largely unchallenged in his successful bid for a third term this year, has both hosted and been hosted by Bloomberg, discussing everything from energy to housing reforms. Buffalo’s Byron Brown (D) has dropped in for advice. And Washington, D.C.’s Adrian Fenty (D), perhaps the star Bloomberg pupil, has, with Bloomberg’s advice, taken control of city public schools and knocked down the walls of his offices to make a bullpen. “Sometimes they come to us through agencies, sometimes they come to the mayor’s office directly,” explained Bloomberg spokesman Stu Loeser. “There’s no one way or another to enroll

www.cityhallnews.com Philadelphia mayoral primary in May, the crucial race in that overwhelmingly Democratic city (Nutter carried more than 80 percent of the vote in the Nov. 6 general election). Nutter sought out several mayors in the many months he had to prepare in advance of taking office in January. “They don’t have mayors school, so I thought in this period between the primary and the general that I would make some trips to other cities to see both long term and short term mayors,” he said. Nutter echoed a point that Bloomberg often stresses: mayors tend to face similar problems which may have similar solutions. “All of our cities are fairly similar. We have problems of crime and education and economic development. We all pick up trash,” he said, though “some have more employees than others and different structures of government.” New York was of particular interest. If the city could rise again after the Sept. 11 attacks, Nutter believes, there is hope for Philadelphia, which has been decimated by a sky high crime rate and inner city decay. He wanted Bloomberg’s guidance as he crafted the specifics of his plans to bring Philadelphia back from the brink,

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The Bloomberg bullpen has become a popular pilgrimage point. particularly in regard to New York’s consistently low crime rate. “What jumps right out at you is New York’s crime rate continues to go down. In Philadelphia, ours, unfortunately, continues to go up,” he said. “Some of the techniques and strategies that they’re using are clearly things we need to be doing in Philadelphia.” He said he planned to lift New York strategies in employing targeted enforcement, flooding of officers, using video surveillance, using stop and frisk, and pursuing illegal weapons. He discussed these with Bloomberg and in a separate meeting with Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. Also on the table at the Lower East Side diner where Bloomberg and Nutter met at the end of August were economic development incentives and methods to improve education, which Nutter believes he can employ without taking control of the Philadelphia system from the state.

Earlier in the day, the Philadelphia mayor toured the 311 call center and was briefed on the phone line’s operations, which he said he believed would be a welcome addition to Philadelphia. Overall, Nutter walked away from his trip to New York with a deeper appreciation for Bloomberg’s emphasis on collecting data and statistics to inform government programs, and his counsel to develop plans and delegate. As he takes the reins as mayor next January, he said he will keep in mind Bloomberg’s central advice, which, as he recalled, was simple: “Don’t get distracted.” Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D) has been following this and other advice from Bloomberg very closely during his first year in office. When he won last year, Booker received congratulatory calls from across the political establishment. The ones he said meant the most to him were

Mayor Michael Bloomberg took Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon on a tour of the Ross Global Academy in the Tweed Courthouse when she came to see him Sept. 18.


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those from current and former mayors. But the call from Bloomberg was particularly special, both because Booker already knew he wanted to copy ideas from New York and because Bloomberg extended an open invitation to City Hall to help him do that. Booker eagerly accepted, and has returned several times over. “He is the Harvard University executive MBA program,” Booker said. “He has been the innovator in the last five to eight years that new mayors want to look to as a model, and come to him to learn what he’s done and try to adapt the experiences and successes—or failures—to their cities.” Booker said he has benefited from the extra tutoring Bloomberg has given him. Often, Booker said, that has meant sharing data from policies that did and did not work in New York and encouraging meetings between top-level officials in both administrations. But Booker said he has also taken much away from the wideranging conversations the two have had at City Hall and at Bloomberg’s town-

Dixon has successfully pushed for a smoking ban and stringent anti-gun legislation, and she is looking into the idea of re-establishing control over Baltimore schools through her office. In town to speak at a New School conference Sept. 18, she got a private tour from Bloomberg of the Ross Global Academy charter school in the Tweed Courthouse before bringing her and her staff back to the bullpen. There she asked him for advice on keeping her city clean, improving public transportation and better relating to the different constituencies of Baltimore. On one point in particular in their discussion of this last topic, Dixon said, she is planning to follow Bloomberg’s lead exactly. “I was very impressed with him taking Spanish lessons,” she said. “He’s really motivated me to begin doing that.” But what perhaps impressed her most was the space where they had their meeting. According to her aides, she could not stop talking about the bullpen, and, though funding for the necessary renovation does not currently exist, she quickly

“Sometimes they come to us through agencies, sometimes they come to the mayor’s office directly,” explained Bloomberg spokesman Stu Loeser. “There’s no one way or another to enroll in mayor’s school.” house. Sometimes the help is even more basic than that: back in August, when three college students were shot to death in a Newark schoolyard, Booker faced recriminations and protesters outside his office calling for his resignation. Then Bloomberg called, not with any deep insight or plan, but an offer to do whatever he could to help. “‘I just want you to know: I’m here for you,’” Booker remembers Bloomberg saying. Booker is not the only student whose progress Bloomberg has taken a personal interest in tracking. According to Loeser, he is carefully monitoring developments in Los Angeles, where Villaraigosa last year won state approval to radically alter the administrative structure of the schools. And rarely does the mayor meet anyone who lives in Washington without asking what they think of the job Fenty is doing. He also has a personal interest in the fate of Baltimore, home of the Johns Hopkins University, where he attended college and remains active as a major donor and former chairman of the board of directors. So he eagerly welcomed fellow Hopkins alum Sheila Dixon (D), who was elevated to the mayoralty when her predecessor became governor in January and won a full term of her own this November. Already with Bloomberg’s guidance,

called a meeting with the Baltimore city hall curator to find out which internal walls of the building she could knock down, if it were. “Hey, over this next four years, if it’s feasible, I’d love to adopt that concept,” she said. ster Fuchs, a professor of international and public affairs and political science at Columbia, is planning to write a book about governing cities in the 21st century. She would use Bloomberg’s administration—in which she served as a special advisor during his first term—as a central case study. Bloomberg, she said, came into office with the belief that government could actually work, if done properly, and she believes he has proven his theory. “He really has restored legitimacy to local government again, which I think nationally, other mayors have been trying to do as well,” she said. “But it’s very helpful to have this New York success story out there.” She added that the mayors who have not already paid attention to what he has been doing should start to, for the sake of their cities. “For any global city, any city that’s competing in the global economy right now, there are lessons to be learned from the New York experience over the last six years,” she said. She added that she

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CITY HALL knows many of the accomplishments have been contingent on having a mayor with the ability to stand up to the status quo and battle interest groups. That, she said, may make following Bloomberg’s lead difficult for non-billionaires. “When you don’t take campaign contributions, it puts you in a better position to govern fairly and effectively,” she said. Nonetheless, if Fuchs does finish this book, Miami Mayor Manny Diaz (D), vice president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, would likely recommend it to all organization members. Diaz met Bloomberg just weeks after they each took office, when he and many other mayors traveled to New York as part of the 2002 Conference of Mayors convention. First connecting as new mayors with the common unexpected burden of incorporating homeland security concerns into their responsibilities, Bloomberg and Diaz struck up a relationship which grew between innings at the 2003 Yankees-Marlins World Series. Among the main topics discussed those nights were non-partisan elections, which Miami has and Bloomberg was trying—ultimately unsuccessfully just weeks later—to bring to New York through ballot referendum. During his time as mayor, Diaz said, he has followed innovations in other cities, searching for those he could bring to Miami. “Mayors are the greatest plagiarizers in the world,” Diaz said. New York, though, is a special case, Diaz said. “Your sheer size, your budget, gives you the opportunity to do a lot of things that a lot of the rest of us can do, but obviously at a smaller scale,” he said, referring to the city. Bloomberg has been just as eager to learn from Miami. With the bus rapid transit pilot program beginning and the building code now being revamped for the first time in 40 years, he flew down to Florida in March to ride on the South Miami-Dade Busway and visit a building at the University of Miami which incorporated environmentally-sustainable design elements. Bloomberg asked a lot of questions, Diaz said, most of them at a high level of detail, from the technical people. The two of them, meanwhile, mostly discussed the broader topic of mayors being on the front lines of setting national policy. In that effort, Diaz said, Bloomberg’s PlaNYC set of environmental and sustainability proposals is crucially important for cities around the country, which, like Miami, generally have smaller populations and younger infrastructure than New York. With Bloomberg showing how sustainability can work in New York, Diaz said, every mayor can take a lesson. Diaz gave Bloomberg the credit for the success of the U.S. Conference of Mayors climate protection agreement. Notably, though Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels (D)

www.cityhallnews.com initiated the now 720-mayor strong effort in 2005, it was Bloomberg who delivered the keynote address at the Conference’s Climate Protection Summit in early November, held in Nickels’ hometown. They do not seek out his advice on everything, though. Bloomberg is certainly not the man to go to for advice on how to satisfy the police officer’s union or how to keep real estate prices low. And no one would call him an expert on stopping gentrification or massively increasingly middle class housing.

NOVEM B ER 2007

Bloomberg himself argues that the last three, at least, are the natural consequences of improving city life overall, which has increased the demand for apartments in the city faster than the supply. And he was invited to discuss how he has managed to keep New York so much in demand at yet another keynote, on Nov. 16 at the National League of Cities’ Congress of Cites. Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson (D), the league’s president, said Bloomberg’s national profile and leadership on many major issues of con-

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cern to the league had made him the natural first choice for the speech. Bloomberg’s mere discussion of the environment and global warming has helped focus mayors on the topic, Peterson said. But more importantly, having a blueprint for their own environmental efforts through the 127 points of PlaNYC, Peterson said, has been much more important than almost anything else in prompting progress on green initiatives. New York, Peterson agreed, has become the laboratory for cities—

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NOVE MBE R 2007

because of its budget and population size, Bloomberg has been able to try things on both the larger and more limited scale which other cities might not take the chance on doing. The smoking ban is a perfect example, Peterson said. While many other cities worried over what might happen if cigarettes were booted from restaurants and bars, they were able to watch what happened when Bloomberg successfully led the charge to enact the ban in 2003. Near-apocalyptic consequences were predicted in New York. But when restaurants and bars survived, and in fact, eventually posted higher earnings, Peterson said, the mayors were emboldened. “When it’s brought up that your convention business and your tourism business are going to suffer if you ban smoking,” Peterson said, “being able to point to New York City and say ‘New York City has hardly shut down’—it’s a great example.” Since 2003, 165 American cities have enacted similar bans. States, international cities and some countries have also put bans in place. In addition to showing the way on these and other programs, Peterson said, Bloomberg has demonstrated how mayors can become national advocates, as in his lobbying of Congress to expand the size of and eligibility for the Earned Income Tax Credit earlier this year, as part of his administration’s continuing efforts to combat poverty. Though he attended the C40 Climate Summit in May, Peterson has not been to the bullpen himself or even had a personal conversation with Bloomberg to date (he has, however, met with Schools Chancellor Joel Klein to discuss education reform in New York and Indianapolis). But he said he was able to learn much from his effective correspondence course in mayor’s school, and believes many other mayors have as well. “He’s demonstrated to the country that the office of mayor is a more powerful—and more importantly than powerful, more valuable—role than people have seen it in the past,” Peterson said. With national action on education and the environment, among other areas, stalled in Washington, Peterson said, Bloomberg’s demonstration of this power and value has been an important inspiration—though Peterson himself felt the pinch. After raising taxes to pay for some of the Bloomberg-like programs

KRISTEN ARTZ.

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Michael Bloomberg has also met with mayors overseas, as when he went to France Sept. 29 to discuss the municipal bicycle sharing program, among other things, with Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoë.

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hough the subtext of his speeches and comments can often sound like an admonition to other mayors to follow his lead, Bloomberg warned that his policies need to be fully studied within the context of the other cities where they might be applied. “You’ve got to be careful,” he said. “What’s right for New York isn’t necessarily right for every place. But the objectives that we have—making the city greener, reducing crime, improving public schools, attracting immigrants who change the culture and create vitality and new jobs—those things

“Mayors are the greatest plagiarizers in the world.” —Miami Mayor Manny Diaz. in overhauling the sewers, using new anti-crime tactics and improving the schools, he narrowly lost his re-election bid Nov. 6.

every city needs to think about.” There may be other benefits as well. Having all these up and coming mayors beholden to him may very well give him

chits and a warm reception that will be useful in the future— whether he does, as he insists he will, go into philanthropy after his term is up in 2009, or if he makes that fabled run for president next year. The states where his mayoral protégés live—New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Florida, Massachusetts, California and Pennsylvania, among others—are exactly those which might be receptive to a Bloomberg ’08 bid. At least one of them might sign on to the campaign. “I think he’d make a great president, and I’ve told him,” said Diaz. To him, at least, the idea of a national mayor moving on to the White House is one that makes sense. “In the past, when I’ve met with the presidential candidates in every cycle, I’ve said to them that they should view the presidential race as a race for mayor of the United States,” Diaz said. “That’s really what we need.” Bloomberg and his aides, however, paint his interest in mentoring other mayors in terms of a sense of responsibility, a mix of civic and national pride. In addition, like Delshad, all the mayors who have come to see him have joined the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition

CITY HALL

(Nutter has not, but he is not officially mayor yet), strengthening Bloomberg’s hand as he continues to push his anti-gun campaign onto the national agenda. Notably, the mayor stressed, he has encouraged those in his administration to learn from other cities, as he has with everything from incentivized learning in public schools to the push to plant a million new trees. If an idea works elsewhere, he said, New York would be foolish not to give it full consideration. The municipal bicycle sharing system he observed in Paris is one good example, he said. “I don’t happen to think it would work here, but it certainly works in Paris, and it’s certainly worth looking at,” he said. “And maybe some day, something along those lines would work here.” So though he is thrilled, he said, when other mayors come to New York, he says he relies on copying ideas as much as those who ask him for advice do. “I think that in fact, the intellectual property transfer may very well go in the other direction,” he said. He had only one explanation for why, then, so many mayors seek him out specifically: “Good looks.” eidovere@cityhallnews.com

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NOVE MBE R 2007

ELSEWHERE Frankfurt, Kentucky

Food for Thought on School Nutrition By Philip Clark

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HE ONLY STATE TO RANK AN

“A” on the school food report card released by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Kentucky owes its grade primarily to the Local Wellness Policy Implementation act, signed into law in 2005. New York, which finished 21st with a “D+” is set to make some progress if the Childhood Healthy Access to Meals Program (CHAMP), passed by the State Senate this spring, is made law. But even if it is, in catching up to Kentucky, New York will have much to do. The Kentucky law enacted statewide

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changes designed to promote healthy eating among school children by doing several things. First, the state board of education set minimum nutritional standards, a policy that CHAMP mirrors. More importantly, Kentucky gave residents an opportunity to provide input on their school nutrition programs so that districts must conduct annual assessments of their nutrition and educational programs. CHAMP does not currently include this provision. Other measures, such as hiring a credentialed “food and nutrition specialist”

Which Council Member Would Make the Best Novelist?

espite all the legislation they write, Council members were unsure that anyone of their ranks would do very well at fiction. Faced with the decision, though, most decided that the best novelist would be the one with the most life experience to call upon in putting together a plot. Robert Jackson chose Christine Quinn, citing her “diversity of studies,” while Rosie Mendez said she was choosing their fellow Manhattan Democrat because “she’s been here longer than the rest of us.” That logic seemed to propel Brooklyn’s Al Vann, who “has a lot of knowledge and knows what everybody’s secrets are,” according to Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum. Helen Foster agreed, picking Vann because of “his years and everything he’s seen.” If Vann does ever get around to writing that book, said Peter Vallone, Jr., perhaps the Council would make it required reading for all newly elected members. “Any new Council member would learn a lot from looking at Al Vann’s career,” Vallone said. Some, though, considered the question on their colleagues’ artistic merits. Bill de Blasio picked fellow Brooklyn Democrat Letitia James “because she’s the most dramatic.” While Gale Brewer went with David Yassky for her vote, she did note that James Sanders “can write.” And though this month’s question

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who oversees the nutritional content of food prepared in the school kitchen and the elimination of “competitive foods and beverages”—food items that did not meet nutrition standards—promised to raise the standards. Importantly, the law required every K12 school to develop a physical education program with at least “moderate exercise.” CHAMP calls for an assessment of physical education practices, but does not set specific policies. Like the Kentucky law, CHAMP may face opposition from food industry lobbyists, who worked hard to remove certain elements of Kentucky’s bill, such as the one eliminating soda from high school cafeterias. In the negotiations to get the bill passed, Kentucky State Sen. Ernesto Scorsone (D), a co-sponsor, said some restrictions had to be tailored to different age groups. “We were able to get stronger restrictions for younger kids, but not for older kids,” he said. “The age thing was the biggest factor. We were able to prevail on the younger kids to keep junk food and drinks away.” Kentucky State Sen. Dan Kelly, who introduced the bill, said that though the legislation moves school nutrition forward, there is still significant work to be done. “SB 172 gets around the edges of the issue,” he said. “But we’re still serving crappy food in our schools.” One major factor which Kelly believes

CITY HALL impacts the efficacy of the law’s provisions is strong parent support, which tends to be much more prevalent in more affluent districts. “School districts where we have seen the most growth are the ones where the parents have been very active,” Kelly said. Whether legislating school nutrition has the desired impact on student health is unclear. Professor Benjamin Caballero of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has argued that improving diet, classroom nutrition education, physical activity and parental involvement has not scientifically been proven to work. The bill, introduced by Senate Education Committee Chair Stephen Saland (R–Columbia/Dutchess), passed the Senate in June, but has yet to be considered by the Assembly. Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D) has indicated his support for CHAMP. Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno (R–Rensselaer) remains hopeful that the bill will make strides in improving student health. “This legislation will provide our children with increased access to healthier food options, which will benefit not only their health and physical well-being,” he said when the bill passed his chamber, “but will also boost their academic performance as well.” pclark@coro.org Direct letters to the editor to editor@cityhallnews.com.

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Council members who received more than one vote G. Oliver Koppell Al Vann Bill de Blasio Christine Quinn Maria del Carmen Arroyo Charles Barron Michael McMahon James Oddo

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brought in only one vote for Simcha Felder, Melissa Mark Viverito said he was the obvious choice to pen a book: “He’s very funny,” she said. Some combination of these traits helped G. Oliver Koppell edge out Vann with five votes to Vann’s four. Council members seemed sure that Koppell’s history in politics, from years in the State Legislature to his brief time as state attorney general to his time on the Council mixed with his personality, could help him put together a bestseller—among fellow Think another Council member Council members, anyway. “He has a story to tell,” said would make a better novelist? Go to www.cityhallnews.com James Vacca. “He’s a nice, decent guy,” added Michael to cast your vote! Nelson. Eric Gioia pointed out, however, that the decision had a lot to do with interests. Vallone, according to Gioia, “would write a great trashy romance novel.” But for those looking for a slightly different genre, Gioia said, “Ollie would write the James Joyce novel.”

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NOVEM B ER 2007

The Dark Horse, First Out of the Gate

ANDREW SCHWARTZ

Mayoral candidate Tony Avella embraces his outsider status—and hopes the voters will, too

“The only way to change things is to take over City Hall,” said City Council Member Tony Avella. BY DAN RIVOLI SEPTEMBER, WHEN PEDICAB drivers rallied in Columbus Circle to protest strict regulations on their industry, Council Member Tony Avella (D–Queens) was the guest of honor, one of the few Council members to vote against the bill that imposed the new rules. When he arrived at the rally, the pedicab drivers cheered. “Tony Avella for mayor!” many chanted. As a two-term Council member running for mayor in a potentially crowded Democratic field, Avella knows—and proudly acknowledges—that he is the dark horse candidate. There are other labels Avella places on himself: “the average guy,” “the middle-class candidate” and even “the anti-politician.” “The only way to change things is to take over City Hall,” he said. Before Avella’s election to the Council, he was president of six different community groups, advocating quality of life issues such as overdevelopment. He continues some of that work as chair of the Council Zoning and Franchises Committee.

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“I’ve been a leading citywide advocate against overdevelopment even before I was elected,” Avella said. “I think my experience is unique with working for the community and working in government.” And he has continued fighting for reform, leading to tangles with Mayor Michael Bloomberg (Unaffil.) and Speaker Christine Quinn (D–Manhattan). Avella was one of three Democrats who opposed Bloomberg’s 2002 property tax hike, which cost him his City Hall parking permit for several years, he claims. Avella has also opposed Bloomberg’s congestion pricing plan on the grounds that, like the property tax hike, it will hurt the city’s middle class. He also voted against a salary raise for Council members and has consistently rejected lulus for his committee chairmanship. “I have a record of being different,” Avella said. There is a bit of Avella’s independent streak in his mayoral aspirations. He is not taking the traditional route by first running for an office that covers a larger constituency than his Council district. Avella called the borough presidency “largely a figurehead position” and the public advocate’s office nothing more than “a soap box.” He does not want to be city comptroller, he said, because “you’re not in control of city agencies.” As for a run for Congress or the state Legislature, he said, that would not work because “all my

tion out there early,” Avella said. Strategic campaign maneuvers aside, Avella sees his announcement as an ethical issue. “I want people to know right up front if they donate to me, it’s for the mayoral campaign,” he said. Acknowledging that raising funds will be tough, Avella has started to build his war chest by going to dinners and setting up booths at street fairs. With the city’s new fundraising rules that increased public matching funds, Avella said he could stay with the rest of the pack. “It will demonstrate that an average guy,” he said, “can compete.” Political consultant Joseph Mercurio said that Avella’s experience makes him an attractive candidate, but without money he cannot build a base outside of Queens. “Had he been a candidate who can actually raise large sums of money,” Mercurio said, “he’d be a really serious contender.” With potentially half a dozen Democratic mayoral candidates, Mercurio said that with a sizable campaign operation, Avella could tap into a big constituency in the outer boroughs. “The white Catholic and the conservative Jewish vote are sizable blocs,” Mercurio said. “Those are the kind of places Avella is going to do well.” Avella emphasized the need to give control over neighborhoods to the residents. As an aide to Mayor Edward Koch (D), Avella helped organize town hall meetings, a practice he would bring back as mayor. “We need to develop a system where citizens in this city have a stake in their own neighborhoods,” Avella said. Avella’s disinterest in pulling in—or inability to get—big donors from unions and lobbyists has forced him to run a grassroots campaign. But he is fine with that. “If you had to put my campaign in two words,” Avella said, “they’d be ‘neighborhood’ and ‘community.’” danrivoli@gmail.com Direct letters to the editor to editor@cityhallnews.com.

Avella’s disinterest in pulling in—or inability to get—big donors from unions and lobbyists has forced him to run a grassroots campaign. expertise is being on a city level.” Avella was the first person to announce his candidacy. He and Rep. Anthony Weiner (D–Brooklyn/Queens) are the only candidates who have currently filed papers as running for mayor with the Campaign Finance Board. “It helps to get the name recogni-

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23

I Remember

RUDY When...

Memories of the GOP presidential frontrunner before he went national met Rudy Giuliani in February of 1992, while living in Hell’s Kitchen, which was pretty hellish then. Tired of accepting the decaying quality of life in my neighborhood, I asked a mutual friend to introduce me to Rudy. At the time, I was a partner in a successful business consulting firm. But I decided that this was the moment for me to give something back to New York City. So I signed on as press secretary for Rudy’s second run against David Dinkins. One day, I spotted smoke rising from a church across the street from Rudy’s midtown law office. I immediately alerted Rudy, who raced into the rectory, ushering the priest and parishioners to safety. I reported Rudy’s heroics to the New York Post , which published a story the next day headlined “Rudy to the Rescue.” It was the campaign’s first piece of good press. But it wasn’t the last: The campaign highlight was the press conference we held to introduce Rudy's fusion-ticket running mates Herman Badillo and Susan Alter. Our political consultant, David Garth, chose the same East Harlem street corner where Fiorello LaGuardia had announced his own campaign for mayor. It was a masterstroke of political symbolism and the media ate it up. A week before Election Day, my phone rang. On the line were Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld, who wanted to feature Rudy in the next episode of their new hit TV show, Seinfeld. Since our schedule was booked, I had to decline their offer. But I made Larry and Jerry a counter-offer: If Dinkins won, he’d get the guest spot on Seinfeld. And if Rudy won, the Seinfeld star turn would be his. Our pollster, Frank Luntz, confidently— and accurately—predicted a narrow Giuliani win. The champagne flowed all night in our Hilton Hotel suite. Exhausted but giddy, we headed downstairs the next morning for Rudy’s first official act as mayor-elect: shooting the mayoral press conference for the “Frozen Yogurt” episode of Seinfeld . I still have a cue card from that scene. —Ken Frydman

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Ken Frydman is a founding partner of Source Communications LLC, a Manhattanbased strategic and tactical communications consulting firm.


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Motion to Stop the Invocations T here are a lot of surprising things about City Council stated meetings. The crumbling ceiling overhead is odd. The rote recitation of agenda items to be coupled on the general order and referred to various committees certainly strike any newcomer as a strange way to spend 15 minutes of Speaker Christine Quinn’s and the Council’s time. And scheduling ceremonials so that they always make the meetings run late seems like a practice begging for some rethinking. But little about them is more bizarre and inappropriate than starting each stated meeting with an invocation. Sure, having the local priest or rabbi or minister or imam stand in front of the Council and offer some words of blessing is a nice way for Council members to spotlight another aspect of their communities. Sure, the prayers are, as a group, anything but sectarian and

Letters to the Editor: We welcome letters to the editor. All letters must be identified with the author’s full name and, for verification, phone number. Anonymous letters will not be published. Substantive letters addressing politics and policy will receive top priority. Submit your letters by email to cityhall@manhattanmedia.com, or contact our staff writers directly with the email addresses at the ends of their articles.

have been led by enough representatives from enough branches of every major organized religion to stave off any substantive accusations of discrimination. And sure, the Council is far from alone among government groups in including prayer, and the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of

Convention, he refuted the proposal floated by famed deist Benjamin Franklin that the stalemate they faced in their deliberations over the structure of the new republic might be broken by instituting a morning prayer. Doing so would be dangerous, Hamilton argued, since the public

Every aspect of the meetings is paid for with taxpayer money, so to devote part of them to religious activities at least raises some questions about the appropriate separation of church and state. religion need not mean freedom from religion. Still, these are stated meetings of the New York City Council between government employees held during government time on government property. Every aspect of the meetings is paid for with taxpayer money, so to devote part of them to religious activities at least raises some questions about the appropriate separation of church and state. Maybe the Council needs to reflect on the wisdom of Alexander Hamilton, arguably the greatest New York political figure in our city and state’s history. Back in 1787, at the Constitutional

might then be led to believe that those at the convention were incapable of handling the problems themselves. And since they were creating a government by and for the people without a formal role for god or any representative of god, this could be particularly problematic. They also, apparently, did not have the funds to pay for a preacher to lend his services—or at least thought that money could be better spent elsewhere. In both this and the substance of Hamilton’s objections, it seems the Council could learn a lesson sent down through the centuries.

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Old Vegas bookmakers have been trumped by new technology, and dozens of websites exist to bet on the outcome of all sorts of things, including who will be the next person to measure drapes in the Oval Office. Intrade lets people buy shares in the candidates’ futures. Ladbrokes gives odds to bet against. Here are this month’s standings, with last month’s included for comparison.

ODDS&Ends

*** PRESIDENTIAL*** ***ODDS *** -------------------LAST MONTH----------CURRENTLY CURRENTLY LAST MONTH----PRICE ON ODDS ON PRICE ON ODDS ON DECLARED REPUBLICANS INTRADE LADBROKES INTRADE PRICE ON ODDS ON PRICE ON LADBROKES ODDS ON DECLARED ----------------------------------------------------------INTRADE LADBROKES INTRADE LADBROKES REPUBLICANS

JOHN MCCAIN 15.7 7 TO 1 4.9 12 TO 1 Rudolph Giuliani 39.8 7 to RUDOLPH GIULIANI42.4 25.0 evens 7 TO 2 38.0 9 TO 22 TOMMY THOMPSON 6.70.4 25 to N/A 0.3 N/Ato 1 Mike Huckabee 1 4 50 DUNCAN HUNTER 0.10.2 66 66 TO11 0.3 66150 TO 1 Duncan 0.1 MITTHunter ROMNEY 23.3 10to TO 1 16.0 10 TO 1to 1 John McCain 5.9 331to 1 SAM BROWNBACK 7.20.8 16 33to TO11 0.5 33 TO PAUL TO11 2.9 50 TO RonRON Paul 8.83.0 40 6 to 6.7 201to 1 MIKE HUCKABEE 27.82.0 33 TO11 1.4 33 TO 1 1 Mitt Romney 2 to 24.6 9 to JIM GILMORE 0.1 N/A 0.1 N/A TomTOM Tancredo 1 0.1 250 TANCREDO 0.10.4 100 to N/A 0.6 N/Ato 1 Fred Thompson 7.8 8 to 1 18.5 9 to 2 ----------------------------------------------------------

*** DATA AS OF JULY 10, 2007*** ----------------------------------------------------------

**DATA AS OF NOVEMBER 6, 2007**

CURRENTLY LAST MONTH --------------------LAST MONTH----------CURRENTLY ----PRICE ON ODDS ON PRICE ON ODDS ON DECLARED PRICE ON ODDS ON PRICE ON ODDS ON DECLARED DEMOCRATS INTRADE INTRADE LADBROKES LADBROKES INTRADE INTRADELADBROKES LADBROKES DEMOCRATS ----------------------------------------------------------HILLARYBiden CLINTON 0.4 52.0 566 TOto 4 1 43.6 4 to 1 Joseph 0.4 5 TO125 BARACK OBAMA 27.8 4 TO 1 39.4 4 TO 1 Hillary Clinton 71.7 1 to 67.8 JOHN EDWARDS 7.3 7 TO 17 5.3 10 TO 14 to 7 Chris Dodd 0.3 0.2 28 TO100 BILL RICHARDSON 2.6 2866 TOto 1 1 1.9 1 to 1 CHRISEdwards DODD 0.3 N/A 0.5 N/A John 5.3 16 to 1 4 33 to 1 JOSEPH BIDEN 0.6 33100 TO 1to 1 0.6 1 to 1 Mike Gravel 0.1 0.1 33 TO150 DENNIS KUCINICH 0.1 N/A 0.1 N/A Dennis Kucinich 0.1 80 to 1 0.1 125 to 1 MIKE GRAVEL 0.1 N/A 0.2 N/A Barack Obama 13.2 11 to 2 11.4 14 to 1 Bill Richardson 0.8 33 to 1 0.8 50 to 1 --------------------LAST MONTH----------CURRENTLY----PRICE ON ODDS ON PRICE ON ODDS ON POTENTIAL ENTRIES INTRADE PRICE ON LADBROKES ODDS ON INTRADE PRICE ONLADBROKES ODDS ON POTENTIAL ----------------------------------------------------------INTRADE LADBROKES INTRADE LADBROKES ENTRIES

Michael Bloomberg 15.9 Al Gore 8.5

N/A N/A

12.7 40

N/A 6 to 1


CITY HALL

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NOVEM B ER 2007

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OP-ED

Calling for Emergency Alert Systems in Schools BY PUBLIC ADVOCATE BETSY GOTBAUM magine this scenario: A gunman walks into a New York public school. What is the city’s plan of action? How do we alert students, faculty and parents as quickly as possible? What tools do we already have that will help us keep children safe? It’s not hard to imagine. We’ve seen gunmen walk into schools in Colorado. And in Virginia. And most recently, an armed student tragically managed to wound several students and teachers in Cleveland. In light of these events, the New York public school system needs to take every step to protect school children. Parents and administrators need to have the ability to

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get in touch with school children at all times, and at a moment’s notice. We have that ability. According to U.S. Cellular statistics, approximately 60 percent of teenagers own a cell phone. For many, text messaging is their preferred method of communication. And yet, cell phones have been banned by the Department of Education (DOE). If the majority of teenage students have cell phones, why aren’t we using them as a tool to protect students? Why has the New York City DOE banned this potentially lifesaving technology? Across the nation, many school systems are using cell phones for emergency notification. Since last April’s tragic Virginia Tech shooting, high schools and

colleges across the country have sent campus-wide text messages and emails to warn students of danger. Programs such as clearTXT and Connect-Ed have already been implemented at college campuses in Minnesota, Florida and New York. And Virginia Tech’s new system of emergency notification—called “VT Alerts”—was launched last July and currently has 18,000 subscribers. In 2005, the DOE justified its enforcement of the cell phone ban by claiming phones were a distraction; that students used them to send text messages, cheat on tests, surf the web, and take photos. In response to the ban, parents from across New York City immediately expressed their dismay because, to them, the ability to have their

Time to Establish an Ombudsman for the Aging BY BOROUGH PRESIDENT MARTY MARKOWITZ s a proud member of what I like to call the “maturer” set—which means I was able to join the very senior center I founded in Flatbush at age 26—I can personally attest to the vital need for our older population to have a voice in government. Yet all too often, seniors find they have no one to appeal to when they aren’t getting the services they need. This is why I’m calling on the New York City Department for the Aging to create a “seniors ombudsman” office to advocate for our older residents. The ombudsman would serve as a liaison between seniors and city agencies and coordinate those agencies to be more responsive to the specific concerns of aging New Yorkers. Why now? Well, New York City’s population of residents over the age of 60 is expected to exceed 1.8 million by 2030. In Brooklyn, that elderly population is projected to approach half a million—maintaining Brooklyn’s distinction of having more seniors than any other borough. As our residents grow older many of course will choose to stay in Brooklyn, because we all know there’s no better place to spend your best years. But there are many challenges we need to address so our seniors can remain safe, healthy and active. To that end, as policymakers address the issue of affordable housing for all New Yorkers, we must build in components specific to our seniors. For example, through public-private partnerships, a certain number of units on lower floors of new developments should be set aside for seniors. Affordable housing for the elderly on fixed incomes can also be achieved through real estate tax incentives and provisions, and seniors’ housing costs can be reduced by

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providing such things as referral services for homeowners looking for honest contractors and low- or no-interest loans to assist with necessary maintenance. For our aging population, getting to and from that home—even to the corner store or the doctor’s office—has long been a troublesome issue. That’s why we must reduce allowable para-transit waiting time to 15 minutes or less and increase bus service and the number of accessible subway stations in Brooklyn and throughout

volunteer opportunities and incentives to make sure our older residents remain vital to their communities and are able to help nurture the next generation of New Yorkers. We can accomplish this by offering stipends to seniors who volunteer and participate in mentoring programs, especially in Central Brooklyn, where there is a critical need for adult mentors. We can also help our older residents by opening new senior centers in underserved neighborhoods such as Flatbush,

It is time for all of us to be as creative as possible in meeting the needs of our burgeoning senior population. the city. I am also calling on the major grocery chains and transportation agencies to work together in providing shuttles for senior shoppers. It’s a win-win situation: the supermarkets increase their customer base, and seniors have access to a wider variety of nutritious foods at more affordable supermarket prices. On the subject of nutrition, as someone who was born at the beginning of the baby boom generation and has battled health and weight issues, I know the value of routine trips to the doctor and preventive care. We need to implement more nutrition and exercise programs, including an “adopt-a-senior center” initiative in which private gyms would send instructors to regularly teach classes at senior centers. Every senior center should be outfitted with exercise equipment, and the government needs to ensure everything is being done to keep our elderly population in the best physical and mental health possible. The mental health of seniors can often be affected by social isolation, which causes depression, anxiety and hopelessness. To combat this, we must provide plenty of

Bensonhurst and Sheepshead Bay and areas with rapidly growing Caribbean and Asian senior populations. We can reduce the number of New Yorkers who will need services in the future by forging alliances within city government to educate younger residents on preparing for their mature years. Finally, the government should use tax credits and matching funds to make it easier for lowincome adults to save for retirement. Yes, all of these proposals will cost some money; however, we can all agree that the mature residents of New York City have paid their dues and have earned the right to get a little attention from those of us in government. It is time for all of us to be as creative as possible in meeting the needs of our burgeoning senior population. We should do this out of respect and gratitude to those who came before and who put in their time to build and nurture this great city. And of course—since we are all tomorrow’s seniors—our hard work today will benefit each and every one of us tomorrow.

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Marty Markowitz (D) is the Brooklyn borough president.

children carry phones was a safety issue. The recent near-tragedy at St. John’s University in Queens validated parents’ position. On Sept. 28, a student was apprehended on the university campus carrying a loaded rifle. School officials reacted quickly and ordered a campus-wide lockdown. Within a matter of minutes, they were able to inform—and protect—the 20,000 students, faculty, and personnel by deploying their new emergency notification system that included cell phone text messaging. Emergency alert systems—via cell phone and email—could also help notify students and parents of health-related crises. On Oct. 14, a seventh-grade student who attended Intermediate School 211 in Canarsie, Brooklyn, died from the staph infection MRSA. MRSA, short for Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, is responsible for more deaths in the United States each year than AIDS, according to new data. The strain resists antibiotics and penetrates the bloodstream, leading to fatal infections. Although the majority of fatal MRSA infections occur in hospitals, recent cases have involved students and have been spread through close proximity in school facilities like locker rooms. After the tragic incident, city officials sent a letter home with IS 211 students explaining to parents the risk associated with the infection. However, some parents didn’t hear about the tragedy until they saw it on the news. An email alert could have let parents know in a more timely and effective manner. Across the city, Community Education Councils (CECs) have passed resolutions opposing the mayor’s ban on cell phones— some as many as two or three times. This isn’t an issue that is going to disappear any time soon. If anything, cell phones have ceased to be a luxury item and are becoming increasingly integrated as a life-tool for parents and children. The administration should recognize this and embrace technology in our schools in a way that does not impede learning. We all have reservations about technology in schools. None of us wants kids to disrupt class with their cell phones. But, frankly, it is irresponsible to deny the potential value and effectiveness of cell phones in emergency situations.

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Betsy Gotbaum (D) is the public advocate of New York City. welcomes submissions to the op-ed page. A piece should be maximum 650 words long, accompanied by the name and address of the author, and submitted via email to cityhall@manhattanmedia.com to be considered.


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IN THE TRENCHES Thompson speechwriter Nat Moss moonlights as independent film screenwriter BY ELIE MYSTAL URING BUSINESS HOURS,

NAT Moss is a speechwriter for City Comptroller William Thompson (D). But during nights and evenings, he devotes himself to a different sort of writing. He has authored three books and the critically acclaimed Washington Heights, a film that won the Austin Film Festival in 2002, as well as a special mention at the Tribeca Film Festival that year. His latest project is Adrift in Manhattan. Starring Heather Graham, William Baldwin, and Dominic Chianese as three emotionally isolated characters who interact with each other only in passing, the film, Moss said, is about how strangers in a city could ease the pain of others’ disconnectedness—though they do not. The film, which had a limited release earlier this fall, was featured at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. Moss took a somewhat unconventional path to screenwriting. After graduating from Brown University, Moss took an

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internship with The Nation in Washington, D.C. But he soon decided that speechwriting was a better fit for his skills and interests in politics and writing. His first speechwriting job was for then-Rep. Ted Weiss (D–Manhattan). Even though he enjoyed that work, he nurtured his passion for film in his spare time, and after Weiss died unexpectedly right before the 1992 Democratic primary, Moss applied to and matriculated at Columbia University’s film school. There he met Alfredo De Villa, who eventually came to co-write and direct both of Moss’ feature length scripts that have been produced. While going to school and working on what would become Washington Heights , Moss also did freelance writing for Vanity Fair. Moss, who lives with his wife and two daughters in Brooklyn, said he appreciates the financial stability speechwriting

MARLA MARITZE

Ready for His Close-Up

Nat Moss enrolled at Columbia film school after his old boss, Rep. Ted Weiss, unexpectedly died. provides. “I’m getting to make the movies I want to make,” he said. But at the same time, he said, speechwriting “is dependable, and I can support my family.” Making Adrift in Manhattan took twoand-a-half years. Moss only started looking for speechwriting positions after the script had been through several drafts. He connected with Thompson’s office through Deputy Comptroller Eduardo Castell, an old friend whom he knew from their days together on Weiss’ staff. More than his responsibilities as a speechwriter, Moss said, living in New

York City inspires the scripts and stories he writes. Though Moss is a native of Houston, he calls New York a supporting character in his work. “My sense of the city and the ebb and flow of how people relate to each other and interconnect has been reinforced by my time here,” said Moss. He admitted that putting only his offhours to screenwriting makes the process harder and longer, though he continues to push ahead on several film projects. “I write at night,” he said, “after I get my kids to bed.” emystal@manhattanmedia.com

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Four Generations on Grand Concourse Avenue After starting her professional career at NYNEX, Bronx lifer Tracy McDermott now connects people on Carrión’s staff

Tracy McDermott’s great-grandfather was a police officer in the Bronx. Now she is Adolfo Carrión’s director of community affairs. BY ELIE MYSTAL MCDERMOTT HAS BEEN working for the Office of the Bronx Borough President longer than Adolfo Carrión, Jr., has been Bronx borough president. She started there in 2000, when Fernando Ferrer was still in charge. McDermott is a fourth-generation Bronx resident who can trace her family’s involvement in the community all the way back to her great-grandfather, who was a police officer in the Bronx. She

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was born just blocks from the office where she now works, up the street on Grand Concourse Avenue. So she speaks with some authority when she says, “The Bronx is a totally different borough than it was in the ‘70s or ‘80s.” McDermott believes she has been a part of the effort to make the Bronx a better place as Carrión’s director of community affairs. She oversees the constituent services unit and works closely with the borough operations unit and the intergovernmental affairs office, constantly connecting

people to other people, and matching problems with the appropriate personnel. “I make marriages here,” she said. Right out of high school, McDermott worked for NYNEX, then went to Lehman College. She had no particular political ambition when she got there, but Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign sparked her interest. She switched her major to political science, and one of her professors suggested that she apply for an internship with then-Assembly Member Roberto Ramirez (D–Bronx). “The education I received through that internship was worth its weight in gold,” McDermott said. After McDermott graduated from college, Ramirez hired her to work in his district office back in the Bronx. There she met Carrión, who at the time was the district manager for Community Board 5. When Carrión was elected, years later McDermott said she happily accepted the opportunity to stay on in the office. And over the years since, she said, Carrión’s style has kept her on her toes. “Everyday is interesting, and I am always learning something,” she said. “I can try to plot out my day, but there is always something that will blow it up.” One of McDermott’s biggest chal-

lenges is managing Carrión’s two live monthly call-in shows (one in English, the other in Spanish). “We sit in the studio, kind of bracing ourselves,” she said, joking about what can happen in the unscripted format. She says her office follows up with all the callers—the ones who make it on the air and the ones who do not. But despite her years in the business, McDermott said she has no intention of running for office herself. “I always tell somebody that if you want to run for office, work for an elected official,” she said. “If you still want to run, god bless you.” emystal@manhattanmedia.com

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who get on the bus without paying. Stringer stands on stage and patiently takes it all in, his eyebrows raised in concern while two bespectacled aides furiously scribble notes on yellow legal pads. Stringer has been doing these town hall meetings all over the city—25 by his own count—with at least one within the district of each of the borough’s community boards. But if the rumors swirling around the city’s political circles are true, he will not be holding them for too much longer. One of the oddities of the city’s term-limits law is that it forces many elected officials to arrive at once, as if a giant wave of politicians washed ashore every eight years. In 2009, for example, every citywide elected official will be termed out, as will four of the borough presidents and most City Council members. Stringer, though, will be coming to the end of his first term. If he runs for re-election in 2009, he will likely only face token opposition and win easily. But come 2013, the clearly ambitious politician would face a wall of incumbents for every major elected job in town. “He’s in the awkward position where he doesn’t have term limits, but he’s out of cycle,” said City Council Member Alan Gerson (D–Manhattan). This has fueled widespread speculation that Stringer will abandon a second term as borough president in favor of a citywide run. With a high-profile field of mayoral contenders all but set and the list of people vying for comptroller growing increasingly long—and Stringer on the host committee for a Melinda Katz fundraiser— many believe Stringer is planning to run for public advocate. “He’s got to at least look into taking the plunge,” said Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf. “He’s got two major questions, though—can he raise the $2.5 million nec-

essary to mount a serious run, and can he challenge Eric Gioia?” Gioia, the two-term City Council Democrat from Queens, has essentially been running for public advocate since practically the day he was sworn in and is widely seen as the frontrunner—in terms of both money and name recognition. “Gioia’s going to be a tough competitor for him,” Sheinkopf continued. “He’s a 24-hour work machine, he’s young, he’s energetic, he’s articulate. He’s been campaigning for several years now and he’s not going to go down lightly.” Also in the race is Norman Siegel, the civil rights lawyer. Like Stringer, he hails from the Upper West Side and enjoys some support in the neighborhood that often looks at Stringer as a favorite son. Also like Stringer, Siegel has made the race before—in his case, twice before. In both the 2001 and 2005 Democratic primaries, Siegel came in second to Betsy Gotbaum (D). In 2001, Stringer came in fourth. Though some expect Stringer to eventually succeed his old mentor, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D–Manhattan), in Congress, Nadler does not seem likely to retire any time soon (though some speculate he could be picked to replace Hillary Clinton (D) in the Senate, were she to win the White House). But if Stringer runs for re-election as borough president and gets booted by term limits in 2013, another office may not open again until 2017. Four years out of public life may make re-entry difficult. “It’s not fair, but a borough president is much more likely to get people to take his phone calls than a former borough president,” said political consultant Scott Levenson.

SCOTT WILLIAMS

Stringer’s ’09 Bind

For his part, Stringer offers carefully worded non-denial denials. “Look, in 2008, we’ve got to take back the State Senate and Hillary’s got to be

elected president,” he said in an interview in his office overlooking City Hall. “I feel lucky I was elected borough president. We’re flattered people say you should run for higher office in just two years.” But he acknowledged that term limits

Race to Succeed Stringer as BP Would Be ‘Free-for-all’ cott Stringer won the Manhattan borough presidency in 2005 by coming out on top of a nine-way race for the Democratic nomination. And, most observers expect, were he to opt out of a re-election bid in 2009 to seek another office, there would be just as crowded a race to succeed him— especially since all the borough’s elected officials are Democrats, and many of them high-profile. Five of Manhattan’s 10 City Council members will be term limited out of office in 2009. Christine Quinn, however, is expected to parlay her citywide profile into a race for mayor, and Robert Jackson has been discussed as a poten-

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tial candidate for both the Assembly and public advocate. But the other term-limited Council members all said that an open race for the borough presidency just might make sense. City Council Member Miguel Martinez said he was very interested in the speculation and would definitely be in the race for borough president were Stringer not to be. “If it opened, absolutely—I don’t have no options,” he said. Among those who ran in 2005 was Assembly Member Adriano Espaillat. Though Espaillat was once Martinez’s political mentor, their relationship has fizzled since and Martinez said he was

sure that he and Espaillat would not both make the race. Referring to both their shared geographic base in Northern Manhattan and Dominican descent, Martinez said, “We would have to work something out as a community.” Council Member Gale Brewer declined to entertain much speculation, but said she might get into an open race. “Anything that’s not the outer boroughs is fine,” she said. Council Member Alan Gerson also said the possibility of running had crossed his mind, though he was too focused on attending to the needs of his

district to put much thought into the idea. “I’m behind most of my colleagues in figuring out what to do next,” he said. Of course, any of the Council members coming to the end of their first term might make the race, though several of those may be more interested in re-election to the Council to make a try at succeeding Quinn as speaker. And the massive turnover in the borough’s Assembly and State Senate delegations in recent years has created a large stock of ambitious young politicians who could run for the borough presidency without forfeiting their


CITY HALL has changed the way he and others must think about their political careers. “The problem with term limits is that it doesn’t give young legislators a chance to grow into their positions, so you have to run for something before your time. I served 13 years in the Assembly, they said I was promising,” he said. “And I stuck around long enough to help with reforming Albany.” As borough president, he has won praise from many, though not from Mayor Michael Bloomberg (Unaff.), who once alluded to Stringer on his radio show as someone who rushes “to the steps of City Hall to have a press conference, doesn’t really do anything.” But within the limited mandate of the borough presidency, Stringer has reformed the community boards, given them more planning resources and limited the scope of Columbia’s Manhattanville expansion. A

www.cityhallnews.com $3,850, the cap for a borough president race, but he would be able to return to those donors for the extra $1,100 toward the citywide cap were he to get into the public advocate race. Now, he is believed to be raising furiously toward the January filing. With enough money in the bank, he would automatically catapult himself into the category of serious contender for public advocate, were he to make that race. He will need all of it, according to political consultant Basil Smikle, especially with a New York-heavy 2008 presidential election looming. “He’s got to spend a lot of time getting name recognition now, because by the time next year rolls around, the press won’t be paying much attention. And with everybody raising money, the city will be drained in many ways,” Smikle said. “It’s hard to do. Not impossible, but very hard.”

big transportation policy conference last year was well received and endeared him to the city’s greens and straphangers. Stringer’s key, political strategists say, will be to point to those efforts as reason to keep promoting him up the electoral ladder. Though he continues to be coy about his future, Stringer’s actions seem to speak volumes. He talks a lot these days about citywide—rather than just boroughwide—needs, as well as occasionally appearing at events in other boroughs. And as of the last reporting period, he had raised over $800,000—a substantial sum for someone who would face an easy race for re-election. And that much already could easily grow into more: As of the July filing the maximum donation he took was

However, those around Stringer continue to speak in vague terms about his possible political plans and insist he is focused on his work as borough president. According to his top political consultant, Josh Isay, “He’s focused like a laser beam on getting things done for his constituents. He has a broad policy agenda and he looks forward to enacting a lot of measures that can help improve peoples lives.” Stringer himself offered a somewhat different non-committal. “Voters are very smart,” he said. “I’ve always said ‘Do the job you have.’ We have to elect Hillary. And then in 2009, we’ll make a 2009 decision.” davidfreedlander@gmail.com

existing positions, as Assembly Member Keith Wright did in 2005. Add to that the possibility of several firsttime candidates, as there were in 2005, and a possible re-entry into public life by former Council Speaker Gifford Miller and the list of potential candidates grows ever longer. But some legislators say they would prefer to stay legislators, as both East Side State Sen. Liz Krueger and West Side Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell insisted. “I perceive state government as having a wider breadth and meatier substance,” O’Donnell said, while predicting that a borough president race without Stringer would be a “free-for-all.” But Assembly Member Deborah Glick, who lost the 1997 Democratic pri-

mary to C. Virginia Fields, said she was only planning to run for re-election, but “one never leaves anything out.” At least one former contender took his name out of the running. State Sen. Bill Perkins, who sought the office as term limits ended his time on the Council, said he was looking forward to being in a Democratic majority in Albany after the 2008 elections and was already anticipating becoming chair of the Corporations, Authorities and Commissions Committee. “I would not be interested, therefore, in running for borough president,” he said. “One door closed and another opened. And it’s all good.” —EIRD eidovere@cityhallnews.com

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IN THE CHAIR Dealing with the Corps Issues Monserrate positions his committee on the municipal frontlines for veterans BY ANDREW J. HAWKINS MEMBER HIRAM Monserrate (D–Queens) is not sure exactly how many soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan call New York home. But he does know the names of the three young men from his neighborhood who have died in those conflicts. “Marlon Bustamante. José Gomez. Jonathan Rivaneirda,” Monserrate said solemnly. “All in their early 20s.” Monserrate, who also noted that his constituent Alex Jimenez is missing in action, personally helped arrange Rivaneirda’s funeral and burial. “The war has a direct impact on us,” he said, “when you see these young boys dying overseas. But there’s also the global perspective that we need to understand as a municipality: that we need to do something to help.” To that end, Monserrate, who chairs the Council’s Veterans Committee, is pushing for a $1 million initiative to improve employment, health and educational services for veterans in the city. “When veterans come back, they don’t know where to go necessarily for assistance,” Monserrate said while getting his shoes shined at Continental Shoe Repair. Across the street at 250 Broadway, firemen and police officers were swarming in response to the Oct. 17 anthrax scare. The program, headed by LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City, is essentially a “one-stop center” for veterans services in New York, Monserrate said. Over 360,000 residents self-identify as veterans in the city. Monserrate, a former Marine and 12year veteran of the New York Police Department, understands how difficult transitioning back to normal life can be for soldiers returning from war. “Many of them came back with injuries, both physical and emotional,” he said. “We have an obligation to do what’s right for them. As long as I’m the chair of this committee, we’ll continue to work toward expanding upon that work.” Under Monserrate, the committee has been busy since the start of the Iraq War, holding dozens of hearings over the last few years on topics ranging from citizenship for soldiers who are immigrants to the blight of homelessness among New York veterans. For the first few years of his chairmanship, Monserrate was unimpressed with the city’s seemingly indifferent attitude toward veterans. But he grew a little more optimistic after Mayor Michael Bloomberg (Unaff.) appointed the city’s first commissioner for veterans affairs, Roger

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And as of the last reporting period, he had raised over $800,000—a substantial sum for someone who would face an easy race for re-election.

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As chair of the Council Veterans Committee, Hiram Monserrate helps watch over the 360,000 veterans living in New York. Newman, this past August. “I think he is going to take that office in a very positive direction,” said Monserrate. “The mayor was very on point in picking him.” In 2004, he partnered with then-Council Member Margarita López to successfully challenge the closing of the Manhattan VA Medical Center. “We took an active role,” he said, “and the hospital’s still open.” Last year, Monserrate ran against State Sen. John Sabini (D–Queens) in the Democratic primary, losing by only 250 votes. Following Sabini’s arrest this past September for drunk driving, Monserrate appears poised to present another strong challenge. He is also considered a viable candidate for Queens borough president when Helen Marshall is term-limited out in 2009. “The borough president has a budget and political will,” Monserrate said. “I could use that to ensure a better quality of life for our vets.” Marines have a reputation for being focused and determined, Monserrate said. Whatever his title or role, he insisted, veterans in New York can always count on him to stick up for them, no matter what. “One thing I learned when I was 17 years old in Paradise Island, South Carolina, in boot camp, was to focus in and to complete the mission,” he said, standing tall in a pair of newly shined shoes. “My mission is to provide the services to veterans,” he said. “There is no quit in me.” ahawkins@cityhallnews.com

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(D), though Ryan had the backing of both Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D) and former Donovan mentor Borough President James Molinaro (C). Donovan’s victory is a relief for Republicans who might have worried over Democratic trends in the city’s GOP stronghold. But it also may come as a relief to the members of District Attorney’s Association of New York State, which had already elected Donovan their president earlier this year. He will take over from Saratoga County’s James Murphy.

Bite of Bing Schools and airports are often named after politicians, but a sizzling grilled beef patty topped with blue cheese and mushrooms? “The Bing Burger” at Jimbo’s Hamburger Place on First Avenue was named in honor of Assembly Member Jonathan Bing (D–Manhattan). The gesture was enough to remind Bing why he got into politics in the first place. “I don’t think you’ve ever reached the true meaning of what it means to be in elected office,” he said, “until you’ve had a slab of meat named after you.”

Hat in the

Ring

By the Numbers: Iraq War’s Local Costs

FDNY Takes Bronze; Rivera Comes in at 31,296 Though the Yankees got knocked out of the playoffs and the Mets suffered their historic flameout, at least one New York team brought home some hardware this October. An All-Star team of the Fire Department’s Emergency Medical Services staff captured the bronze medal in the 2007 World EMS Games, held in Australia. The FDNY team—James Fallar, Joseph Hudac, Eddie Perez and Joseph Fortis—was sponsored by the Masimo Corporation, which makes devices that detect a person’s pulse. The games, sponsored by the Australian College of Ambulance Professionals and the Journal of Emergency Medical Services, are held annually to coincide with the International EMS conference. They are designed to challenge the participants’ knowledge and application of various EMS protocols and come aided by special effects produced by Warner Brothers Studios. No word on how the studio’s special effects masters simulated a 40minute delay at the Lincoln Tunnel.

Meanwhile, in New York, City Council Member Joel Rivera (D–Bronx) took 5:09:24 to complete his first-ever marathon Nov. 4. Rivera, who is planning a run for Bronx borough president in 2009, will presumably try to be in the top 30,000 in that race. State Sen. Bill Perkins (D–Manhattan), who has run several marathons, did not compete.

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With the cost of the Iraq War closing in on half a trillion dollars, the National Priorities Project, a non-profit that analyzes federal spending, has broken that amount down into state-sized chunks. Amount New York State has put toward the total cost of the Iraq War:

$40,915,800,000 (approximately 8 percent of total) Amount New York City has put toward the total cost of the Iraq War:

$15,237,500,000

Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrión was the honorary ringmaster of the Big Apple Circus Oct. 28, earning him his moment in top hat and tails and a dance with Grandma the clown.

No MetroCard in Paul’s Pocket When presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul (R) swung through town last month, the Texas Republican said he was shocked to find hundreds of New Yorkers cheering for him. “There’s always the temptation to stereotype. You think of New York City as first being very, very liberal and not open to constitutional views. And then you have a mayor that’s running for president who’s very, very much an authoritarian, close to the opposite of being a libertarian. And you have a Hillary Clinton who wants to totally socialize medicine,” he said. “And yet they’re elected handily in the city—you say, well, they don’t care. But there must be a lot of people who still do care, but obviously if they were in the total major-

ity and they were organized, they wouldn’t be electing those kind of people.” Still, though he said he loved the prosperity he saw in New York, he did not feel entirely comfortable in the Big Apple. “I’ve been accustomed to small towns, so I’m not sure I could adjust very well to driving here,” he said. Nor would the libertarian violate his principles to take alternative transportation. He has never, he said, been on the subway, either in New York or in Washington, D.C. “I’m not,” he said, “going to ride those subsidized roads!”

Donovan’s PreElection Day Victory The most hotly-contested race in the city this year—for Staten Island district attorney—was not so hotly-contested after all, despite all the hype. Daniel Donovan (R) coasted to a landslide victory by a 2-1 margin over Michael Ryan

(approximately 3.3 percent of total) The costs are calculated based on how much each state contributes in tax revenues, according to IRS data. The locallevel costs are based on the state costs and on relative population and income levels in each location.

Rising Stars Continue Rising Three people who made this year’s list of “Rising Stars” have already received major promotions since the list was published in the September issue of City Hall. Kizzy Charles-Guzman, formerly of WE ACT, has been hired by the Mayor’s Office for Long Term Planning and Sustainability to be part of the team responsible for implanting PlaNYC’s air quality programs. The new chief of staff to the CEO of MetLife International is Ellie JuardoNieves. Juardo-Nieves moves up from government relations counsel she held with MetLife for the past four years. Then, on Nov. 1, Errol Cockfield, Jr. was named Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s (D) new press secretary after just a few months as the downstate press secretary for the Empire State Development Corporation. The crystal ball remains a proprietary trade secret. By Edward-Isaac Dovere, Andrew Hawkins and Elie Mystal


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: Poetic Justice Based in part on real episodes of police corruption in the 1970s and early 1990s, Charles Hynes’ (D) debut novel traces the fates of two fictitious whistle-blowers who dared to break the NYPD’s “Blue Wall of Silence.” Though the main characters are products of Hynes’ imagination, New York readers will recognize fictionalized versions of Rudy Giuliani and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and a compelling re-telling of the NYPD’s darkest hours. Triple Homicide will be released as a mass-market paperback in June 2008, and there has already been discussion of a film version. Hynes, who has been Brooklyn’s district attorney since 1990, first made a name for himself nationally with his successful prosecution of three white teenagers in the racially-motivated murder at Howard Beach in Queens which became the subject of Hynes’ non-fiction work Incident at Howard Beach: The Case for Murder. What follows is an excerpted transcript.

CH: You’ve been writing it for over a decade? Hynes: No, the longest period of time was the 10 years it took to get it published. That was a frightful time. When Grisham tried to sell A Time to Kill, at least publishers were taking manuscripts. He got 50 rejections, if I recall the story. The he wrote The Firm and his publisher asked if he’d written anything else and he said “Yes. You rejected it.” Anyway, by the time I was ready to send my manuscript out to all the publishers in the world, they weren’t taking them anymore. You needed a literary agent, so I needed to find one. This was very haphazard: Months and months would go by and it would mostly be friends of mine who had a maiden aunt who had a precocious niece who knew an agent. Most said they wanted to see 50 pages and then never responded. But then there was one person who was kind enough to call me back. I asked him why no one else did and he said ‘Everyone’s a novelist. You have to wait in line.’ I asked him if he liked it, and he said ‘no.’ So then one day I got inspired and I just called Judge Edwin Torres [author of Carlito’s Way and After Hours, both of which were the basis for the 1993 movie Carlito’s Way starring Al Pacino and Sean Penn]. We’d never been close, just knew each other in passing. We’ve gotten a lot closer since. Turns out he never had an agent either. He had a friend—Howard Kaminsky [author, publisher and former president of Warner Books, Random House, among other things]. He said, ‘Howie’s a good guy, he’ll help you out.’ So on a Friday afternoon, Howard Kaminsky called and said he’d look at it. The following Monday he called back and he said ‘I like it. I like it a lot, but it needs editing.’ It took him a year, but finally St. Martin’s Press sent me a contract. I figure the book’s accepted—I’m home free.

CH: What then? Hynes: The working title had been And the Wall Came Tumbling Down. The new editor [Desmond had left St. Martin’s] asked me how wedded I was to that title, and I said I wasn’t. I told him, ‘Do whatever you want, it’s fine with me.’ I just wanted to see it published. CH: You mentioned Grisham. Who are your favorite authors? Hynes: I’ve read most of Grisham, [David] Baldacci, Nelson DeMille, [Michael] Connelly. CH: What’s the best book about New York? Hynes: I think Plum Island [by Nelson DeMille] is tremendous. I enjoy Connelly’s recurring character Harry Bosch—those books are great—but for content, style and depth, Plum Island is the best. CH: I hear you’ve had some interest from Hollywood. If you had your pick of actors, whom would you cast in the film version of Triple Homicide? Hynes: It’s just a wild fantasy, but would I love to see Scorsese’s group. I think Mark Wahlberg, Leonardo DiCaprio, De Niro—those guys would be great. Generally, I’d love to have Scorsese’s people. He’d be a great director, De Niro would be a great director. CH: How has the reaction from police and others in the criminal justice arena been? Hynes: What I’ve found interesting is that I’ve given this to a cross section of ages of cops and it’s all been very positive. Especially older guys—guys who remember the ‘70s and ‘80s, those very dark days of the New York Police Department. CH: And you really think systemic corruption is no longer a problem for the city? Hynes: Well, the great non-fiction hero of this is Ray Kelly. If police officers in the future follow Kelly’s design, we won’t see systemic corruption again in my lifetime. There was a time when too many police officers were getting themselves in trouble over too little money. CH: It’s hard not to think of Bernard Kerik when you say that. Was he an exception or a rogue? Hynes: Well, he’s pled guilty to a serious crime and he’s the subject of a federal investigation. But you have to remember, those crimes took place before he was police commissioner, when he was corrections commissioner. There’s nothing to suggest that during his tenure that there was a diminution of the protocol to prevent police corruption. What you can know is there hasn’t been a

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City Hall: You seem like a busy guy. How did you find time to write a novel? Charles Hynes: I started writing in 1992. I can’t remember if it was the beginning or the end of the year. The writing was basically at night, though it was rarely that much because my day doesn’t end until 9 p.m. Weekends were the most productive. I did have problems getting it done—writer’s block and the thing called the Muse are real. Anyone who’s done any creative work knows you go weeks without writing a word and then come out with three chapters in a single weekend.

CH: But that was not the case? Hynes: I got an editor—Sean Desmond—who was superb. He was like an Irish nun—he drove me crazy with rewrites. That was another two-and-a-half years. Then I was on vacation and I got the message that St. Martin’s had accepted the manuscript. What Desmond did was he adapted my story to this new genre of writing where the characters are really developed and the story centers on the events after the action, the denouement. Crash and The Departed are written that way, and Truman Capote did it with In Cold Blood. Desmond restructured my story and asked for a lot more depth. At that point, I thought: ‘That’s it, I’m home free.’ That was 1996.

serious problem with police corruption other than the 1996 problem [the “Dirty Thirty,” when officers in Harlem’s 30th Precinct were found to be stealing drugs from dealers and selling them on the streets, keeping cash they found at dealers’ lairs and generally acting in a hideously disgraceful manner]—which was dealt with effectively through the Kelly protocol. It was investigated by regular cops. These days, it’s all one-shot crimes, not systemic. In a department of 30,000 people, it’s not surprising that there are occasional crimes. CH: Do you think this book will have an effect, positive or negative, on your upcoming campaign for re-election? Hynes: I think some fathead will suggest that I should spend more time in my office and not writing a book. But no, it won’t have a substantial effect one way or the other. CH: On page 220, you wrote that ‘without muckraking by journalists, police corruption was largely unmentioned’ during the ‘80s. Sounds like a challenge to me. Any hints to journalists who might be interested in muckraking these days? Hynes: [laughs] Muckraking is a great tradition in journalism, but I think you’d be wasting your time looking for police corruption. As far as anything else, that’s my domain and I’m not going to give you anything! CH: Are you working on a new book? Hynes: Yes. It’s along the same general lines as Triple Homicide, but addressing judicial and political corruption. I like the characters in Triple Homicide and they’ll be coming back. I hope to get around to a second book. You know, the worry I have is about the 15 years. I don’t have 15 years—in 15 years, I’m going to be drooling in my oatmeal. —Leah Nelson leahanelson@yahoo.com Direct letters to the editor to editor@cityhallnews.com.

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City Hall - November 1, 2007  

The November 1, 2007 issue of City Hall. Targeting the politicians, lobbyists, unions, staffers and issues which shape New York City and Sta...